"Without a recognition of God, we lose our freedom of religion," says former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was ousted from his post in November 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had placed in the state judicial building. A federal court ruled that the monument was unconstitutional, and the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.
Moore received a hero's welcome at Friday's conference from the more than 200 activists who had come from 25 states. But his low-key, faith-infused talk was more the exception than the rule.
Many speakers used tough language and urged extreme remedies. Several attacked Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, with some calling for his impeachment. Justice Kennedy (appointed to the court by former president Ronald Reagan) was excoriated for opinions against capital punishment for juveniles and a Texas antisodomy law, and also for citing international norms in his opinions. One speaker charged him with upholding "Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."
Other speakers called for new law schools, saying Ivy League and even some Catholic law schools are responsible for producing secularist lawyers and judges.
At the center of the struggle is the debate over separation of church and state. Conservatives point out that the notion of a "wall of separation" between church and state is not an idea contained in the Constitution but rather a phrase taken from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. But in recent decades, they complain - starting with the banning of organized school prayer and Bible reading in the 1960s - the courts have enshrined that idea of that "wall of separation" in their rulings.
"Separation" arguments, they suggest, are modern and antireligious and thus should be abandoned.