Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore vows to fight a federal court ruling that his 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument is unconstitutional and must be removed from the rotunda of the Alabama State Judicial Building in 30 days.
“Like all judges in the state of Alabama, I’m sworn to uphold the constitution of the state of Alabama,” Moore declared in a press conference today. “Like all judges state and federal, I’m sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Those constitutions are premised on a belief in God. I am bound by my conscience to acknowledge that God upon whom that oath depends. I’m committed to do my duty,” he continued.
Justice Moore then announced he had no plans to remove the monument.
Yesterday, U. S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson found “Roy’s Rock,” as it’s nicknamed, violates the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution, which provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
“Both in appearance and in stated purpose, the Chief Justice’s Ten Commandments monument is …
nothing less than ‘an obtrusive year-round religious display’ … to place the government’s weight behind an
obvious effort to proselytize on behalf of a particular religion,” wrote Judge Thompson in his opinion.
Moore unveiled the giant granite cube in the rotunda across from the main entrance on
August 1, 2001, announcing it depicts the “moral foundations of law” and reflects the “sovereignty of God
over the affairs of men.”
Justice Moore did not consult with the other justices and has final authority over what decorations may be placed in the public building. He subsequently denied requests to place a monument depicting an atom, the symbol of atheists, and a monument containing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” because it was not “the revealed law of God.”
No tax money was used for the Ten Commandments monument.
The top of Moore’s monument is engraved with the Ten Commandments as excerpted from the Book of Exodus in the King James Bible. The sides of the monument bear quotations from the Declaration of Independence and smaller quotations from James Madison, William Blackstone, James Wilson, Thomas
Jefferson, George Washington and John Jay. Also included in the engravings is the National Motto, “In God We Trust,” and quotations excerpted from the 1954 Pledge of Allegiance and the Preamble to the Alabama Constitution.
“The court is captivated by not just the solemn ambience of the rotunda, but by something much more sublime,” wrote Judge Thompson, who described the monument and its surroundings as “a
consecrated place, a religious sanctuary, within the walls of a courthouse.”
Judge Thompson noted that the monument has become a “compelling place for prayer” for visitors
and court employees.
Three attorneys, backed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union, found the monument offensive and complained it made them feel like “outsiders.”
“The law is clear, and the evidence in this case was overwhelming,” said Morris Dees, co-founder of Southern Poverty Law Center, who headed the center’s legal team in the case. “Chief Justice Moore clearly crossed the constitutional line that separates church and state. By hauling the monument into the
judicial building, he intended to impose his own brand of Christianity on the state. This he cannot do,” he
The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the ruling a setback for “Moore’s religious crusade.”
“It’s high time Moore learned that the source of U.S. law is the Constitution and not the Bible,” Lynn told Fox News.
Moore argued in court the monument acknowledges God, but does not force anyone to follow his conservative Christian religious beliefs.
Moore became known as the “Ten Commandments Judge” after posting a wooden, hand-carved plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom while a state court judge in Gadsden, Ala. He also was known to invite clergy to lead prayer in his courtroom before trials.
The Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the state of Alabama sued Moore in 1995 over his actions. Both suits were dismissed.
Moore then mounted and won by a landslide margin an election to the Alabama Supreme Court on Nov. 7, 2000. Moore viewed the election as a mandate from the people to “restore the moral foundation of law.”
Coral Ridge Ministries, an evangelical Christian media outlet, launched a fund-raising drive to help fund Moore’s legal defense.
Thompson took issue with Coral Ridge’s backing of Moore’s effort, which he put at $170,000. While noting that the plaintiffs did not raise the issue, Thompson expressed concern over the “entanglement” of the evangelical group’s fund-raising on the part of Moore.
“I believe in Chief Justice Moore,” Presbyterian minister and Coral Ridge Ministries founder Dr. James Kennedy states on the ministry website. “He is a friend … a statesman, a military veteran, and a man of God standing up to defend the core of the law of the United States – the Ten Commandments, the very
foundation of all morality.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, religious experts
expressed widely differing views on the legality of Moore’s Decalogue during last month’s weeklong trial in federal court in Montgomery.
Edwin Gaustad, a professor emeritus of history and religion at the University of California Riverside, testified James Madison and Thomas Jefferson – the two men most responsible for the First Amendment – believed government and religion ought to be kept as far apart as possible.
“Chief Justice Moore was saying that it was written to protect the role of God in government, that the purpose of the First Amendment was to protect the government to make public proclamations on God,” Gaustad said. “I disagree. It was to protect the religious liberties of the citizens of the new nation.”
“If you consult any reputable historian, they would find it a gross misstatement of the purpose of the
First Amendment,” he continued. “It is to protect the religious liberties of its citizens, not promote a public piety.”
Michael Novak, director of social and political studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, offered a contrasting opinion, testifying that the chief justice’s monument is “totally and thoroughly consistent” with the founders’ views on church-state separation and “wouldn’t have offended them.”
“I believe the judicial building is the right place for such a monument,” Novak told the court.
Novak went on to assert that the framers of the Constitution wanted to acknowledge as the source of
all individual liberties the Judeo-Christian God.
“I often quote one of my favorite presidents, Harry Truman, who said in his inaugural address, ‘The American people stand firm in the faith which has inspired this nation from the beginning,’” Moore said. “We believe that all men are created equal because they’re created in the image of God. And from this
faith we will not be moved,” he continued.
Thompson declined the plaintiff’s request to file an immediate injunction, allowing Moore 30 days to remove the monument. He added he would file the injunction at that time if the monument remained.
In the meantime, the Christian Coalition of Alabama predicts a national uprising to the ruling.
“This ruling seriously erodes our religious freedoms, the acknowledgment of God and the moral foundation of our law embodied in the English Common Law, which is enveloped in both the U.S. and Alabama Constitution,” said coalition President John Giles.