- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court vowed yesterday to appeal a federal judge's order that he remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state's judicial building.
"I have no plans to remove the monument, and when I do I will let you know personally," Chief Justice Roy Moore told reporters.
Also yesterday, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled that granite monuments displaying the Ten Commandments must be removed from the grounds of four public high schools in southern Ohio. The appeals court panel ruled 2-1 to uphold a federal court's June decision.
Chief Justice Moore said he has received no order for the monument's removal, but if he does he will appeal to higher courts. His attorney, Stephen Melchior, said earlier that Chief Justice Moore will ask the appellate courts to allow the 5,300-pound granite monument to stay in the judicial building until the appeals process is complete.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled Monday that the monument installed by Chief Justice Moore went too far in promoting religion and ordered it removed within 30 days.
Judge Thompson said he does not believe all Ten Commandment displays in government buildings are illegal, but he said the monument in the rotunda of the state building crosses the line "between the permissible and the impermissible."
"Its sloping top and the religious air of the tablets unequivocally call to mind an open Bible resting on a podium," Judge Thompson said.
If Chief Justice Moore fails to remove the monument at his own expense, Judge Thompson said, the federal court will issue an injunction forcing him to remove it.
Mr. Melchior said he didn't think Judge Thompson understood Chief Justice Moore's testimony during the trial.
Judge Thompson "uses the term 'religion' 97 times in the opinion and the term 'religious' 50 times, but goes on to talk about how it's dangerous to define the term 'religion.' This is very troublesome to me. I can't imagine the appellate court buying such interesting logic," Mr. Melchior said.
Chief Justice Moore testified during the trial that the commandments were the moral foundation of American law. He said he installed the monument partly because of his concern that the country had suffered a moral decline over the past 50 years as a result of federal court rulings, including those against prayer in public schools.
Opponents of the monument argued that it promoted the judge's conservative Christian faith in violation of the Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion.
Chief Justice Moore became known as the "Ten Commandments Judge" when he fought efforts by liberal groups to make him remove a wooden plaque of the commandments from his courtroom wall in Etowah County. He easily won election as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2000 and installed the rotunda monument the next year.
The monument features the King James Bible version of the Ten Commandments sitting on top of a granite block. Around the monument are quotes from historical figures and documents, including the Declaration of Independence.
In Ohio, the Adams County/Ohio Valley School Board had asked to be allowed to merely cover up the displays while it appealed a magistrate's ruling that the monument was unconstitutional.
The school board's attorneys said moving the 3-foot-tall tablets, which weigh at least 800 pounds each, would be expensive and could damage the monuments.
Appeals Judges Damon Keith and Karen Moore said, however, that the expense or inconvenience wasn't enough to overcome the continuing constitutional violation of having the display on public grounds.

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