Public opinion is hard to gauge

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 20, 2003

Gauging the thoughts of public opinion is never an easy thing in Alabama.

True, we may think we know what all of the people believe, but there are times when we're dead wrong.

As in the case with former Chief Justice Roy Moore, we believed the majority of the people felt sympathy for him.

We were only partially right.

What we've discovered is that there is nearly a 50-50 split in Alabama regarding Mr. Moore, his actions, and subsequent removal from office.

We've received numerous faxes, e-mails and letters calling for the overturning of the Court of the Judiciary's ruling. At the same time, we've received just as many faxes, e-mails and letters praising the Court for its actions.

What's unique about this situation is that most of the calls for reinstating Mr. Moore come from outside of Alabama. Most of the praise for the Court comes from inside the state.

What does that tell us?

It tells us two things.

One, that people in Alabama are free-thinkers. The people of Alabama, while deeply religious and open with their beliefs, also believe in the law of man -- at least as written and interpreted throughout the county. That despite the attempts to label Alabamians as zealots and the like, we understand the difference between God's law -- with it being the ultimate law; and man's law -- it being an interpretation of common beliefs of all people.

The second thing it tells us is that more people from outside of Alabama are supporters of Roy Moore than in state. National organizations such as Focus on the Family, The 700 Club and the like, have pumped in thousands of dollars and resources to assist Mr. Moore in his fight. Perhaps they are fighting for something they believe citizens in their own state feel they have lost.

We simply don't know for sure.

One thing we do believe though is that if then Justice Moore had placed the monument on the lawn of the judicial building, then there would be no objection -- at least not as great of an objection. If a monument were placed on the Federal Courthouse lawn, it would not receive such an objection.

Why? Because federal property is a free-speech zone. It is a place for the free exchange of ideas to occur. Similarly, if a monument to the Torah and Quran were placed on Federal property, they would be given the same protections. As for the lawn of the state's judicial building, we believe outdoors, the monument would be easier to avoid if someone did not believe in its merits or foundation as law.

However, if someone were to place a monument of all three on property out in the open -- including a neighborhood -- someone would complain. In some places, neighborhoods won't even allow the "Old Glory" to fly.

And that is why we believe public opinion is too hard to understand. If we can't agree on our unifying flag, we'll never agree on the many different religious doctrines that we are allowed to believe in.