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A Ten Commandments display in the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building must be removed because it violates the First Amendment’s ban on establishment of religion, a federal appeals court ruled today.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has become known as the “Ten Commandments judge,” was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union after placing the monument in the courthouse in the middle of the night in July 2001. The four-foot-tall, two-ton granite display features the Commandments inscribed on two tablets along with historical quotations.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision that the monument be removed.
“If we adopted his position, the chief justice would be free to adorn the walls of the Alabama Supreme Court’s courtroom with sectarian religious murals and have decidedly religious quotations painted above the bench,” the three-judge panel said, according to the Associated Press.
“Every government building could be topped with a cross, or a menorah, or a statue of Buddha, depending upon the views of the officials with authority over the premises,” said the panel.
However, supporters of Moore said the monument was intended “to remind everyone of the moral foundation of the laws of Alabama and the United States.”
The Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, which filed a brief on behalf of the Alabama judge, noted today’s ruling came one week after another federal appellate court, the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia, upheld display of the Ten Commandments on a wall outside a courthouse.
“Because there appears to be a conflict between the decisions of these appellate courts, we hope the United States Supreme Court will review these cases and reaffirm government’s ability to acknowledge in public our religious heritage, especially the moral foundation of our law,” said Edward L. White III, associate counsel for the legal group.
White argued a display on public property that includes the Commandments is proper and permissible because the First Amendment mandates an accommodation of religious faith and is not restricted to only the secular.
In a statement announcing the appeal last year, Moore said: “Federal district courts have no jurisdiction or authority to prohibit the acknowledgment of God that is specifically recognized in the Constitution of Alabama.”
Moore first drew national attention after posting a wooden, hand-carved plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom while a state court judge in Gadsden, Ala. The Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the state of Alabama unsuccessfully sued Moore in 1995 over his actions. He then mounted and won by a landslide margin an election to the Alabama Supreme Court in 2000, which he viewed as a mandate from the people to “restore the moral foundation of law.”
Editor’s note: Chief Justice Roy Moore is one of the key writers in the July issue of WND’s acclaimed Whistleblower magazine. Titled “THE CONSTITUTION: America’s ultimate battleground,” this special issue explores whether the Constitution is still America’s “supreme law of the land.” In his article, “Putting God back in the public square,” Justice Moore explains to Whistleblower’s readers what the 1st Amendment is really all about.