Pro-Confederate activists held 'Secession Day' event at Roy Moore's foundation two years in a row

Story highlights

  • Pro-Confederate activists held events at Moore's foundation in 2009 and 2010.
  • The events promoted a history of the Civil War sympathetic to the Confederate cause.

(CNN)Pro-Confederate activists twice held events to commemorate Alabama's 1861 secession from the United States at the headquarters of the foundation led at the time by Roy Moore, the new Republican nominee for US Senate.

The events, held at the Foundation for Moral Law's building in 2009 and 2010, promoted a history of the Civil War sympathetic to the Confederate cause, in which the conflict is presented as one fought over the federal government violating the South's sovereignty as opposed to one fought chiefly over the preservation of slavery.
Speakers at the events included Franklin Sanders, who is a board member of the League of the South, an organization that advocates for a "free and independent Southern republic," and Rev. Chuck Baldwin, who has written that he believes "the South was right in the War Between the States" and that Confederate leaders were not racist. Most academic scholars identify slavery as a central cause of the war.
    At the time of the events, Moore, who on Tuesday won a runoff race to become the Republican nominee for US Senate, was the president of the Foundation for Moral Law, a Christian legal nonprofit he founded in the early 2000s. Moore stepped down as president in 2013 when he was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, but still retains the title president emeritus. His wife, Kayla Moore, currently serves as the organization's president.
    Moore's association with the "Secession Day" event first came under scrutiny during his failed 2010 campaign to be Alabama's governor. At the time, the Associated Press reported on the 2010 event taking place at Moore's foundation. The executive director for the foundation, Rich Hobson, now Moore's campaign manager, told the AP that he was the one who approved the event and that Moore didn't know about it.
    "While the Foundation for Moral Law owns the building, it is not involved in the meeting," Hobson told the AP.
    However, according to event organizer Patricia Godwin, Moore allowed the events to be held at his foundation. In an invite for the 2009 event reviewed by CNN's KFile, Godwin writes, "I have been frantically trying to find an appropriate venue for our event for months now...thankfully, Judge Roy Moore has afforded us the ground floor of the building where the offices of The Foundation for Moral Law are."
    Godwin also writes in the invitation that there would be an opportunity to donate to the foundation "in appreciation to Judge Moore for affording us a place to hold this event." Reached by phone, Godwin told CNN that Moore did not "sponsor"or "endorse" the event but that he did approve the use of the foundation's building in both 2009 and 2010.
    Godwin said that the event was not "an event held to advocate for secession in today's times. It was a historic day in Alabama, in the South and in this country." She added that part of its goal was to "educate people about our Constitution."
    Asked whether Moore was aware of the content of the event when he gave his approval, Godwin replied, "He's not gonna let just anybody come in there. And he did not charge us a dime."
    A representative for Moore's campaign did not return a request for comment.
    Photos from the event show Alabama's 1861 secession flag and a banner "in memory of the men in gray" who fought to maintain "the principles of the Constitution" in the Civil War. A four-minute video of the 2010 gathering from the Montgomery Advertiser features attendees repeatedly arguing that the South was fighting for freedom in the Civil War and had a right to secede.
    Among those in the video was John Eidsmoe, who was hired to join the foundation's legal team in 2008 and is still listed on its website as the senior counsel and resident scholar, alongside Moore's wife as the only other staff member. When he was hired in 2008, Moore praised Eidsmoe as "an exceptional constitutional scholar who is well versed in history and America's Christian heritage," according to a release from the foundation announcing the decision.
    At the 2010 Secession Day event, Eidsmoe argued of the Southern states, "Our belief is that it was their constitutional right to secede." He later added, "I support the Constitution of the United States of America. I took an oath to defend it. But I also believe that Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood that Constitution better than did Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Webster."
    Eidsmoe did not respond to a request for comment.
    Godwin said that Eidsmoe had attended the event in a personal capacity, not as a representative of the foundation, because he was a friend of hers.
    In her interview with CNN's KFile, Godwin echoed the other attendees' sentiments about the Constitution, saying that it was Moore's understanding of the nation's founding text that led her to support his current campaign for Senate. She added that there hasn't been a Constitution since President Barack Obama was elected, saying, "It's been a theoretical document rolled up on the shelf of the archives just like President Davis said that Abraham Lincoln did to it."
    "I want people like Mitch McConnell and the NRA and CNN and Donald Trump to stay out of our business down here," Godwin said. "That's the problem. You Yankees, you have done nothing but stick your freakin' nose in our business down here in the South. We don't want you down here in the South, don't you understand that? I would love to see every Yankee go back to Massachusetts and to New York City, you know it?"