Alabama's politicians wield ignorance like a weapon that holds the mind hostage to irrational fear and unfounded suspicion. Every election cycle the point is illustrated in campaign ads that are as annoying as they are demagogic. They are made even more so by the frequency with which they're broadcast, ad nauseam. There is one campaign ad this season that really takes the cake in terms of its insult to average intelligence. It's an ad for gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and is targeted at one of his opponents in the republican primary, former state school board member Bradley Byrne.
The announcer in the commercial, using an overly contrived southern drawl, tells us that Byrne doesn’t take every word in the bible literally and that he believes the theory of evolution has some scientific merit. Where is Clarence Darrow when we need him?
Bradley Byrne has had a remarkably scandal free and productive career has a politician in Alabama. He has served on the State Board of Education, he's been a member of the Alabama State Senate and he has served as the chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system, where he rooted out corruption in that institution. Roy Moore, on the other hand was removed from his position as Alabama's Chief Justice for defying a federal court order and insisting on keeping a granite monument to the Ten Commandments in the atrium of the Alabama Supreme Court.
Moore's religious demagoguery is not only scary, but very bad publicity for Alabama, harkening back to the early days of George Corley Wallace and his infamous, "segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," proclamation. Just has Wallace’s racial bigotry played well back then, no doubt, Moore's religious bigotry will find its audience too. However, Byrne didn't do himself justice, playing right into the hands of the right reverend candidate for governor.
Byrne almost immediately came out and reassured the voting public that he too believed in a literal interpretation of the bible and by no means did he believe his ancestor's swung from trees. John Scopes he is not. Does Byrne, the former educator and school board member also believe the earth is six thousand years old?
The irony of it is that Byrne is catholic, a two thousand year old Christian faith from which all others sprung. Even the Catholic Church for all its abhorrence to change can boast itself has having faith in science and common sense. In 1996, in a speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II told the gathering, "... new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis." On the subject of the bible's literal interpretation, Avery Cardinal Dulles of Fordham University writes in his article, Vatican II on the Interpretation of Scripture, , “ In the Catholic understanding, the Bible is not self-sufficient. It does not determine its own contents, vouch for its own inspiration, or interpret itself.”
It's ashamed to see Alabama's republican primary race for governor taking the shape of a Scopes Monkey Trial. Byrne could have better served his integrity and Alabama's capacity for rational thought by sticking to his guns and sticking up for common sense rather than taking Roy Moore's bait and legitimizing his 19th century views on faith and science.