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 THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

The "Justice Moore" conflict
Part 3: 2003-AUG-23 to DEC-31

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Sponsored link.

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Read about the Chief Justice Moore case:
up to 2003-JUL, during 2003-AUG, .... during 2004 and after

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Overview:

The monument was installed in the rotunda of the State Judicial Building, in Montgomery, AL on 2001-AUG-1. The building houses the Alabama Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roy Moore was ordered by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to remove the monument because it violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and its principle of separation of church and state. He refused.

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2003-AUG-23: Conservative Christians to file lawsuit: The Christian Defense Coalition has organized a weeks-long vigil at the Justice Building. They are planning to file a lawsuit on 2003-AUG-25 against the associate judges of the Alabama Supreme Court who unanimously ordered the monument removed. The lawsuit will claim that their decision violates freedom of religion. Conservative churches nationwide are reported to be sending busloads of their members to Montgomery, AL to take part in the demonstration. 1

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2003-AUG-24: Capitol Hill Prayer Alert issues "Urgent Prayer Alert:" The Capitol Hill Prayer Alert web site asks all American Christians to pray, fast and take action concerning the situation in Alabama. They quote a number of individuals who support restoring the Ten Commandments monument in the Rotunda of the Alabama Justice Building:

bulletFormer Chief Justice Roy Moore, suspended from the Alabama Supreme Court: "Have we become so ignorant of our nation's history that we have forgotten the reason for the adoption of the Bill of Rights? It was meant to restrict the federal government's power over the states, not to restrict the states from doing what the federal government can do. The time has come to recover the valiant courage of our forefathers, who understood that faith and freedom are inseparable and that they are worth fighting for..."
bulletReverend Flip Benham, Director of Operation Save America: "The die has been cast, the line has been drawn. Like the prophet Elijah before him, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Alabama has aligned himself with God and His Law."
bulletChristian Defense Coalition: "Chief Justice Roy Moore has shown great courage in refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from the Alabama State Supreme Court. It is essential that we support him in this historic struggle for religious freedom and justice. In light of this, national Christian leaders are calling for the church to honor God, obey His Word, resist tyranny and stand with Judge Moore. Please commit to this powerful move of the Holy Spirit as we come together to repent, pray, seek God and cry out for the Ten Commandments not to be removed. We also hope that our Christ-centered response to the Ten Commandments, here in Montgomery, will ignite a spiritual awakening that will sweep across our nation."
bulletAlan Keyes, Ambassador and former presidential candidate: Addressing a crowd near the Justice Building, he said: "We have three branches of government. And I stand here today in hope that all Americans will stand to call on the President and call on the Congress to take courageous action finally to put the bridle on these unruly courts!" 2

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2003-AUG-25: Dr. James Dobson advocates demonstration: James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and host of their radio program interrupted their published radio schedule and interviewed suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore and former US Ambassador Alan Keyes. They recommended that Americans join in a public demonstration to advocate that the Ten Commandments monument remain in the Alabama Justice building. According to JesusJournal.com, "Following the interview, Dobson's announcer endorsed civil disobedience, should it be necessary."

Rev. Rob Schenck spokesperson of the National Clergy Council, which sponsors the National Ten Commandments Project in Washington, D.C. said: "Dr. James Dobson is the most respected and most admired Christian leader in America. This is a very significant endorsement of our efforts to move thousands of Christians to Montgomery."

Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition said: "Dr. Dobson's call to Montgomery comes at a crucial time. Right now the only thing stopping the removal of the Ten Commandments is the presence of God's people outside the courthouse. We will continue here to Aug. 30, no matter what happens to the Ten Commandments monument." 3

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2003-AUG-26: Richard Land calls Alabama controversy "insurrection:" Dr. Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He is "...indignant at attempts by courts to deny our Judeo-Christian heritage and enforce a secular bias on our public spaces ...However, we are a government committed to the rule of law....Do evangelical Christians really want to say that this United States government is no longer a legitimate government and that we are no longer obligated to obey its courts when we disagree with their rulings? If so, let us understand it for what it is. It is insurrection."

Land quoted Bill Pryor, the Attorney General of Alabama, who wrote: "Although I believe the Ten Commandments are the cornerstone of our legal heritage and that they can be displayed constitutionally as they are in the U.S. Supreme Court building, I will not violate nor assist any person in the violation of this injunction. As Attorney General, I have a duty to obey all orders of courts even when I disagree with those orders.…We have a government of laws, not of men." 4

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2003-AUG-27: Lawsuit to retain monument dismissed: A lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Christian talk show host and a pastor. It argued that enforced removal of the monument would violate the public's freedom of religion. A hearing had been scheduled for the afternoon of AUG-27, but was cancelled.

bulletAlabama's Attorney General Bill Pryor defended the unanimous decision of the eight associate justices to move the monument. He argued that the Mobile, AL court, where the lawsuit was filed, lacks jurisdiction. He also argued that the complaint lacked merit.
bulletBarry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said that the lawsuit relied on "outlandish legal arguments to defend the justice's blatant promotion of religion." 5

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2003-AUG-26: Demonstration ask for Pryor's resignation: About 150 demonstrators marched to Attorney General Bill Pryor's office, asking that he resign because he supported the unanimous decision of the associate justices of the Alabama Supreme Court. Seven demonstrators were allowed into the building where they met with Pryor's chief deputy for about 20 minutes. 5

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2003-AUG-27: Albert Mohler recommends legal actions only: Albert Mohler, president of  Southern Seminary,  wrote: "We must support and defend the right of the State of Alabama--or any other state--to erect a monument featuring the Ten Commandments. Judge Moore is right in his insistence that his monument is lawful. He should press that case in every court until all appeals have been exhausted. But he should also obey lawful orders of the federal courts until that point is reached. Even if he ultimately loses at the U. S. Supreme Court, we should work through the democratic process to remove the judges and reassert legal sanity." 6

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2003-AUG-27: Monument removed: A crew moved the Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building to another location within the building. "Protest organizers asked the crowd outside the Judicial Building not to rush the building or do anything except pray." Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, a group who wants to retain the monument, is reported as having accused Pryor of political grandstanding to improve his nomination to a federal appeals court. 5 "It is not clear exactly where the Commandments display is, nor is it known if any subsequent location for the controversial monument will be accessible to the public." 7

Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State called the removal "a tremendous victory for the rule of law and respect for religious diversity. Perhaps Roy Moore will soon leave the bench and move into the pulpit, which he seems better suited for." 7

Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists, was concerned that the monument was not removed from the Justice Building. "This whole controversy can drag on when and if Moore, or some other official, decides to relocate the monument to another part of the building in hopes of circumventing the original court ruling." Noting that federal Judge Myron Thompson ruled that the monument could be placed in a "private" part of the building, she said: "Moore could have the monument placed in a slightly less conspicuous location, a hallway, anywhere in the building, and this dispute could re-ignite with more lawsuits, prayer rallies and expense for the taxpayers of the state of Alabama. Officials failed to send a clear and unambiguous statement that the monument will not be permitted on public property." 7

The building manager, Graham George, addressed the "prayer warriors" who had gathered at the Justice Building to support the monument. He told the demonstrators that it was being moved to a secure, windowless room for now. Its ultimate fate will be determined by Chief Justice Roy Moore -- its owner.

According to AANews, in recent days:

bulletGary Bauer, head of the Campaign for Working Families, wrote: "While there is deep division over Moore's strategy, it is increasingly clear that the public's patience is wearing thin with our rogue courts....For decades now, unelected judges have gone unchallenged while they ripped out every vestige of faith from the public square and tore down every symbol of our most deeply held beliefs. Whether it's prayer in the public schools, banning the Ten Commandments and Pledge of Allegiance, or inventing 'rights' to partial-birth abortion and homosexual sodomy, unelected judges have shown incredible disdain for public opinion, majority rule and the laws written by our elected representatives.  Our representative democracy is in danger of becoming a robed oligarchy."
bulletLarry Darby, Alabama State Director for American Atheists, commented about the relocation of the unconstitutional Commandments monument. He said: "It's about time.  Justice Moore has made a mockery of the judicial system. He has disgraced the bench and the bar and has embarrassed the state of Alabama worldwide.  I'm only  disappointed that it will not be out of the building and off of taxpayer property." 7

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Sponsored link:

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2003-AUG-28: President Bush's thoughts -- expressed indirectly: According to the Associated Press, the president's Deputy Press Secretary, Claire Buchan, said that it is  important that laws and court rulings be respected. She also noted that some courts had ruled it's OK to erect displays of the Ten Commandments, while others have forbidden it. 8

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2003-SEP-4: New lawsuit and other developments: Three citizens of Alabama initiated a lawsuit to have the granite monument retained in the rotunda of the state Justice Building. They claimed that relocation of the monument unconstitutionally established the religion of non-theistic beliefs. Attorney General Bill Prior filed a motion asking that the lawsuit be dismissed. Judge Myron Thompson found that the relocation of the monument was constitutional. He dismissed the lawsuit. Jim Zeigler of Mobile, AL, attorney for the plaintiffs, said that they had not decided whether to appeal the ruling.

On NBC's Today Show, Moore said: "This is not about politics, it's not about religion and it's not about me. It's about whether or not this country can acknowledge God."

Governor Ronnie Musgrove of Mississippi asked to transport the monument to the Mississippi State Capitol building as a temporary display. Former Chief Justice Roy Moore rejected the request. Moore also turned down the request of commissioners in Gaston County, to display it in the county courthouse in Gastonia, NC.  9,10

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2003-SEP-8: Justice Moore opposed to constitutional display: Judge Roy Moore is reported as disapproving a proposal to erect a cultural display involving the Ten Commandments surrounded by other historical and secular documents that form the foundation of American law. Such displays have been declared constitutional in the past. He said: "To put things around the Ten Commandments and secularize it is to deny the greatness of God." Moore is reported as saying that his lawyers are planning to petition the U.S. Supreme Court shortly to restore the monument to the rotunda of the Justice Building. He expects that the hearing into his suspension will be scheduled for 2003-OCT. He is quoted as believing that the monument controversy is part of God's plan. He said: "When they put that monument in that closet and turned that key, [God] opened the hearts of the world." He also said that: "It's my responsibility to display the moral foundation of our nation. We're not a nation founded by Hindu [sic] or Buddha or Mohammed." 11

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2003-SEP-9: Clergy organizing: Ninety-five clergy from 72 churches in the greater Montgomery, AL, area have joined with other clergy from the state to organize a movement called "The Spirit of Montgomery." They will organize events related to the restoration of the Ten Commandments monument. 12

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2003-SEP-26: Trial date set: Justice Moore's trial on ethics charges has been scheduled for NOV-12.  He had asked that the trial be delayed until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on his planned appeal, which he expects to file on SEP-29. 13

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2003-SEP-29: Objectors fined; Moore files appeal: Four people who were arrested on AUG-20 because they refused to leave the Justice Building were found guilty of trespassing. Eight more entered guilty pleas. Each was fined $25 plus $191 in court costs.

Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore filed an 31 page brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief asked that they overturn the decision of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that his monument could not constitutionally be placed in the rotunda of the State Justice Building. He criticized the supreme Court for failing "...to provide a uniform rule of law" concerning the separation of church and state in matters involving the display of religious items in government buildings. The brief states that "The lower federal courts are floundering in a sea of precedents with no legal rudder." 14

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2003-SEP: AL: State Senate passes bill: The Alabama Senate has approved a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would permit the display of the Ten Commandments in government buildings.  The vote was 25-0, even though the amendment would be clearly unconstitutional because it violates the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The House will now consider the legislation. 15

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2003-OCT-5: DC: Monument replica completes five-state tour: A replica of suspended Chief Justice Moore's Ten Commandments monument completed a five-state tour as part of the "Save the commandments" caravan. It began in Montgomery AL and ended in Washington DC. Little interest was shown in the caravan in Montgomery, as only about 200 supporters greeted it -- even though the demonstration was on Sunday. Fundamentalist pastor and leader of the National Clergy Council, Rev. Rob Schenck, said: "This five-state tour is part of the national cry for this court, the Supreme Court of the United States, and the United States Congress, to resolve that we are indeed one nation under God, and we wish to remain so as an American people." Participant John Grater from New York said: "Congress every day opens with prayer. These are just good moral values. If you don't want to proclaim that you're a Christian, that's all right. [The Ten Commandments] are fundamental things that keep our country strong." Three clergy from the Caravan were arrested outside of St. Matthew's Church. They refused to conform to warnings by police officers to remain behind preset barriers. About 75 members of the group American Atheists held a counter-protest near the Capitol. They suggested that the Ten Commandments, and similar religious symbols, should be displayed in some of the country's 350,000 churches, synagogues and mosques, rather than in government buildings. Supporter Shari Bombick said the Constitution guarantees not only freedom of religion but also freedom from government-supported religious worship. 19

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2003-OCT-31: U.S. Supreme Court rejects appeal: The Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Chief Justice Roy Moore’s appeal to keep a 5,300-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments at the Alabama Judicial Building. They gave no reason for the rejection. Chief Justice Moore is reported as saying: "We have not yet begun to fight. The war is not over. It's just a temporary setback, is all. God's got another direction to go....In every county and every city and every borough in every state, there's talk about acknowledging God now....People are becoming aware of this foolishness of the judicial branch thinking they can write laws as they go, on a case-by-case basis...We need to teach people -- ministers, politicians, judges, lawyers -- what the law's about, what it's founded on. We need to turn our nation back to God." 16

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2003-NOV-13: Chief Justice Moore removed from office: The Alabama Court of the Judiciary voted to remove Chief Justice Ray Moore from office because of his prior refusal to follow a federal judge's order to remove the Ten Commandments monument.

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2003-DEC-15: Alabama Supreme Court refuses to hear Moore's appeal: Roy Moore had appealed his ouster as chief justice to the Alabama Supreme Court -- the court that he once led. CNN.com reported that Moore had indicated in court papers that he would accept the decision of all of his former colleagues except for acting Chief Justice Gorman Houston. Moore is reported as saying that Houston had made comments that indicated he might not be able to rule impartially.

CNN.com reported that the eight associate justices of the Supreme Court have refused to hear his appeal, because of their earlier involvement in the case. They prepared a list of qualified judges and attorney who are qualified to hear Moore's appeal. Included were all of the state's retired circuit, district and appeals court judges. They randomly drew seven names from this list which will be submitted to Governor Bob Riley. A miniimum of six members of the court are required to hear a case. Seven were chosen to avoid the possibility of a tie vote. Riley is expected to make the final appointment of a replacement court to hear the case. 17,18

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Related essays on this site

bulletA detailed analysis of the Ten Commandments
bulletRecent U.S. court rulings on separation of church and state
bulletThe Istook Constitutional Amendment: 1995-1996
bulletThe Istook Constitutional Amendment: 1997-1999
bulletPrayer in the public schools

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References used:

  1. Bryan Keogh, "Activists to file suit in protest of removal of Ten Commandments monument," Chicago Tribune, 2003-AUG-24, at: http://www.centredaily.com/
  2. "CALL TO CHRISTIAN RESISTANCE IV. Judge Moore Aligned with God & His Law," Capital Hill Prayer Alert, 2003-AUG-24, at: http://prayeralert.org/
  3. "Dr. James Dobson Endorses Civil Disobedience Over 10 Commandments," JesusJournal.com, 2003-AUG-25, at: http://www.jesusjournal.com/ [Note that the title is in error. Dr. Dobson did not endorse civil disobedience; the announcer did.]
  4. Richard Land, "This is Insurrection. Do evangelical Christians really want to say that this United States government is no longer a legitimate government?," Beliefnet.com, 2003-AUG-26, at:  http://www.beliefnet.com/
  5. Kyle Wingfield, "Workers Remove Ten Commandments Monument," Excite News, 2003-AUG-27, at: http://apnews.excite.com/
  6. "Faith and Culture: Al Mohler on Justice Moore," DickStaub.com, 2003-AUG-27, at: http://www.dickstaub.com/
  7. "Alabama Commandments monument down -- but is it gone? Will Moore, Supporters Try 'End Run' Around Court Ruling?" AANews, 2003-AUG-27.
  8. "Through spokeswoman, Bush makes cautious comment on Ten Commandments furor." Associated Press, at: http://www.kvia.com/
  9. "Ten Commandments Controversy Continues," WAFF.com, 2003-SEP-4, at: http://www.waff.com/
  10. "Judge Dismisses Suit Seeking Return of Commandments," WAFF.com, 2003-SEP-4, at: http://www.waff.com/
  11. Vivi Abrams, "Moore opposes commandments plan. Says proposed display would 'deny the greatness of God'," Birmingham News, 2003-SEP-9, at: http://www.al.com/news/
  12. "Unprecedented Number of Pastors Organize for Continued Ten Commandments Battle," U.S. Newswire, 2003-SEP-9, at: http://releases.usnewswire.com.
  13. "Alabama justice gets Nov. 12 trial date in Ten Commandments case," Associated Press, 2003-SEP-25, at: http://newsobserver.com/
  14. "Moore files Ten Commandments appeal with Supreme Court," GoMemphis.com, 2003-SEP-29, at: http://www.gomemphis.com/
  15. AANews, 2003-SEP-30.
  16. Stuart Shepard, "Bush Speaks About Faith," Citizenlink, Focus on the Family, 2003-NOV-3.
  17. "All 8 Alabama justices to step down from Ten Commandments appeal," CNN.com, 2003-DEC-15, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  18. "Retired judges named to hear appeal of Ten Commandments justice," CNN.com, 2003-DEC-16, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  19. Jessica Rosgaard, "Ten Commandments supporters rally on Capitol lawn. Replica of Alabama chief justice's monument ends 5-state tour," CNN.com, 2003-PCT-5, at: http://www.cnn.com/

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious LawsTen Commandments > here

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Copyright © 2002 to 2004 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-AUG-23
Latest update: 2004-AUG-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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