- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

The Supreme Court yesterday refused to step into a high-profile dispute over whether a Ten Commandments monument may be displayed in the Alabama Judicial Building.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore had asked the high court to allow him to return a 5,300-pound monument he installed in the building’s rotunda. In August, he was suspended for defying a federal court order to remove the display and the monument was moved to a storage room.

Lower federal courts said the display violated the Constitution’s First Amendment separation of church and state. Justice Moore said the monument was simply an acknowledgement of God and symbolized the foundation of the nation’s moral laws.

In his Supreme Court appeal, he argued that the lower federal courts didn’t have authority over a state chief justice. The high court refused his appeal without comment.

“The United States Supreme Court left it in the closet,” Justice Moore told Fox News, referring to the storage room housing his monument. “The fight is not over.”

He vowed to go state to state to educate Americans about their religious rights.

Justice Moore is scheduled to go before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary on Nov. 12 on charges of violating judicial ethics for refusing the federal court order.

His supporters were disappointed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case but said the matter had not been settled. They pointed to similar cases making their way through courts nationwide. Some courts have allowed displays of the Ten Commandments on government property while others have not.

Bob Jewitt, an Atlanta-based media coordinator for the Christian Defense Coalition and similar groups, said the Supreme Court will have to stop “evading” the issue.

“They will have to listen to one of these cases … in the near future,” he said. “This certainly isn’t over.”

Mr. Jewitt said many Southern communities inspired by the Alabama case, including three in Georgia, are filing similar judicial challenges.

“People are standing up and saying, ‘No, that’s not what our Founding Fathers had in mind,’” Mr. Jewitt said. “I think our Founding Fathers would be disappointed to hear that we use the First Amendment to protect nude dancing and put the Ten Commandments in a closet somewhere.”

Opponents of Justice Moore’s battle hailed the Supreme Court’s decision.

“This is the end of the legal line for Roy Moore,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Religious symbols belong in our homes and houses of worship, not our courthouses.”

Although Mr. Lynn acknowledged that similar cases will continue, he doubted that the Supreme Court was eager to settle the matter.

He pointed to an early 1980s case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools was unconstitutional. “I frankly think that resolves it,” Mr. Lynn said. “It’s the same whether its in a court or a schoolhouse.”

In other action yesterday, the court:

• Declined to block a lawsuit over a magazine’s safety reports about the Suzuki Samurai, a defeat for news organizations that wanted the court to clarify free-speech protections for journalists.

• Said it will use a dispute over wilderness areas to decide what legal rights people have when they oppose government action.

• Refused to protect a company from damages in asbestos lawsuits in West Virginia. Union Carbide argued that the state’s system of handling large asbestos cases is unconstitutional.

• Agreed to clarify when police may search parked cars, picking a substitute for an Arizona case that was dismissed last month.


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