Thursday, August 14, 2003

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore yesterday defied a court order to remove a large granite monument emblazoned with the Ten Commandments from a state judicial building on the grounds that God’s law supercedes state and even federal law.

“I have no intention of removing the monument,” he said at a press conference in Montgomery. “This I cannot and will not do.”

He will ask the U.S. Supreme Court today to strike down the order that would remove his 5,280-pound, 4-foot-high granite monument from its roped-off corner of the rotunda of the state judiciary building.

“The issue in this case is the state of Alabama can acknowledge God,” Chief Justice Moore told Fox News. The state constitution “invokes the favoring guidance of Almighty God and no federal court has declared [Alabamas] constitution unconstitutional.”

“It’s very important that, as the chief administrative officer of the justice system, that I uphold my oath to the Alabama Constitution as well as the U.S. Constitution. Neither the First Amendment nor the Alabama Constitution forbid an acknowledgment of God.”

The Supreme Court will see things his way, he predicted, “because we are following U.S. Supreme Court law as to its definition of religion, which recognizes a Creator in higher law. So we have every right as a state to acknowledge God.”

Called “Roy’s rock” by some and likened in size to a washing machine by others, the monument has raised hackles ever since it was secretly installed late on the night of July 31, 2001.

Chief Justice Moore defended the way in which the monument was brought into the building, saying it had been paid for with private funds and that the appropriate state officials knew of its installation.

But on Oct. 30, 2001, the American Civil Liberties Union, in conjunction with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed suit against Chief Justice Moore, saying his display of the Ten Commandments was an unconstitutional establishment of religion in a government building.

A U.S. district court under Judge Myron Thompson ruled against Chief Justice Moore on Nov. 18, 2002. On July 1, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled against Chief Justice Moore, saying displays on government property cannot promote or be affiliated with a religion.

Judge Thompson gave the state until Aug. 20 to remove the monument, threatening $5,000 a day in fines if Chief Justice Moore did not comply.

Opponents compared the chief justice to 1960s-era segregationists who also opposed federal court orders.

“Justice Moore is repeating the shameful legacy of Alabama Governor George Wallace, who stood in the schoolhouse door in opposition to a federal court order to desegregate all-white schools,” said Olivia Turner, executive director of the Alabama ACLU.

“If Chief Justice Moore can decide which federal court opinions he wants to comply with, then nobody’s rights are safe from any state officials who disagree with the law.”

Bruce Fein, a specialist in constitutional law in the District, said the case “doesn’t have a ghost of a chance” of going to the nation’s highest court.

“Someone coming into that court seeking remedy must have clean hands,” Mr. Fein said. “Where has he pledged that, if the U.S. Supreme Court affirms [the circuit court ruling], he will obey it?

“He is leaving open the prospect that even if the court rules against him 9-0, he will disobey it. What are we going to have to do, call out the National Guard?”

Chief Justice Moore’s mentality, Mr. Fein added, “epitomizes the lawlessness of massive resistance in the South to desegregation decrees. It epitomizes a disrespect for the rule of law totally incompatible with the office of judging. He is inviting anarchy.”

But the justice, a Baptist, is used to conflict over his insistence that God should be recognized in the public square.

He has been in the public eye since 1995, when the ACLU sued him for posting a plaque of the Ten Commandments on the walls of his courtroom in the Etowah County Courthouse, where he was a circuit judge. Although the case was eventually thrown out on a technicality, both sides agreed the merits of the case were never ruled on.

Chief Justice Moore became nationally famous over the 1995 case and huge crowds turned out in rallies supporting his cause. In 2000, he easily defeated a Democratic opponent to become the state’s chief justice.

Yesterday, he hinted that demonstrators may seek to block any effort to move the monument.

“As long as it’s peaceful,” he told Fox News, “I don’t have any opposition to civil disobedience.”

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide