In the summer of 2021, an old poem, touching on several conservative talking points including abortion, re-emerged on social media. The poem, entitled “America the Beautiful,” was widely attributed to controversial former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. He lost a U.S. Senate election to Democrat Doug Jones in 2017, after several women accused him of sexual impropriety decades ago, when they were in their teens and Moore was in his 30s. The former judge has denied the allegations.
Many Facebook posts in July and August 2021 began with the following introduction:
Some of you may be wondering what Alabama Judge Roy Moore has been doing since he was removed from the bench for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom wall. The following is a poem written by Judge Moore…
The poem was also widely shared in 2020, especially after it was posted to Facebook by Sharon Baptist Church in Iron Station, North Carolina. Most of the Facebook posts in 2020 and 2021 included a photograph of a bearded and bespectacled man (shown above) who is, definitively, not Moore. It’s not clear who the man is, or why his picture was almost universally associated with the poem in Facebook posts.
Snopes readers have inquired about “America the Beautiful” for at least a decade, and the poem has been attributed to Moore as far back as 1999. On the website of the Foundation for Moral Law, a non-profit organization started by Moore but now headed by his wife, Kayla, the poem is published along with following assertion: “© Copyright 2007 Roy S. Moore”:
America the Beautiful, or so you used to be,
Land of the Pilgrims’ pride, I’m glad they’re not here to see,
Babies piled in dumpsters, abortion on demand,
Oh, sweet land of liberty, your house is on the sand.
Your children wander aimlessly poisoned by cocaine,
Choosing to indulge their lusts, when God has said abstain.
From sea to shining sea this Nation has turned away,
From the teaching of God’s Law, and a need to always pray.
So many worldly pastors telling lies about our Rock,
Saying God is going broke so they can fleece the flock.
We’ve kept God in our temples, how foolish we have grown,
When all the earth is but His footstool, and Heaven is His throne.
We’ve voted in governments that are rotting to the core,
Appointing Godless judges who throw reason out the door.
Too soft to put a killer in a well deserved tomb,
But brave enough to kill that child before he leaves the womb.
You think that God’s not angry, that our land’s a moral slum?
How much longer will it be before His judgment comes?
And how can we face our God, from Whom we cannot hide?
What is left for us to do, but stem this evil tide!
For if we who are His children, will humbly turn and pray,
If we seek His holy face, and mend our evil way,
Then God will hear from Heaven and forgive us of our sins.
He’ll heal our sickly land and those who live within.
But, America the beautiful, if you don’t then you will see,
A sad but Holy God withdraw His hand from Thee.
Moore also recited “America the Beautiful” during his speech at the October 2017 Values Voter Summit, which can be watched here (beginning around 3:00:00).
The assertion of Moore’s copyright, and the consistent attribution of the poem to him in various forums over the past two decades, all point towards his authorship. However, the earliest publication of the poem that we could find was dated 1992 and attributed to someone else entirely.
On Oct. 28, 1992, the Victoria Advocate newspaper in Victoria, Texas, published a letter to the editor written by a Richard A. Barsness, in support of anti-abortion politicians. The letter incorporated a nearly identical poem to the one later claimed by Moore, but attributed it to a David Hungerford, as shown below:
Snopes contacted individuals who might be able to shed further light on Barsness’ letter, and the possible involvement of a David Hungerford in the writing of the poem, but we did not receive responses in time for publication.
Speaking on behalf of Moore, a staff member at the Foundation for Moral Law told Snopes, “Judge Moore has been writing poetry since the early 1980s and cannot say when this was written.” When we pressed the spokesperson on whether that statement meant Moore was continuing to assert that he wrote “America the Beautiful,” the spokesperson did not elaborate.
We found only one other attribution of the poem to a David Hungerford, in an undated document hosted on the website of the Calvary Chapel in Eagle, Idaho. By contrast, Moore has been cited as its author on dozens of occasions over the past two decades.
However, because the earliest publication of the poem that we could find so far (in 1992) was attributed to David Hungerford, and Moore did not provide evidence that he wrote the poem before then, we cannot rule out the possibility that someone by the name of Hungerford, or even someone else entirely, was the original writer of the poem later claimed by Moore. As such, we are issuing a rating of “Unproven,” for now. If definitive evidence becomes available, we will update this fact check accordingly.