THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
The first "Justice Moore" conflict
Part 2: 2003-AUG-1 to AUG-22
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.
2003-AUG-14: Judge Moore refuses to remove the monument: Judge Moore
stated at a news conference that he has: "...no intention of removing
the monument. This I cannot and will not do." He criticized U.S.
District Judge Myron
Thompson for his "callous disregard for the people of Alabama" and their
tax dollars. He told reporters: "We have a federal judge saying we can't
recognize who God is, yet that's the basis of our justice system. They have the
audacity to come into our court and say we have to remove the foundation of our
law, which is the Ten Commandments."
Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists said: "Justice Moore
should resign immediately. He is doing everything he can to resist a federal
court order to remove an unconstitutional, sectarian monument of the Ten
Commandments from the entrance to the state's Judicial Building, and clearly is
using his authority to promote religion....Look at the message Justice Moore is
sending to the public, especially our young people -- if you don't like a
particular ruling, especially one that stops unconstitutional religious
proselytizing, just defy the courts."
Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists, charged
that Moore distorted legal and philosophical issues during his press conference:
"Moore repeats the old canard that there is no such thing as separation of
church and state in our Constitution. He's wrong. The Establishment Clause of
the First Amendment was inserted not only to prevent government from interfering
in the internal affairs of churches, but also to stop the state from promoting
one or all religions."
2003-AUG-15: Appeal sent to the U.S. Supreme Court: Judge Moore's
lawyers have refused to acknowledge the authority of the federal judge who
ordered the monument to be removed. One of his attorneys, Herbert Titus of
Virginia Beach, VA, told the Supreme Court that the federal judge's decision "has
threatened to invade the Alabama treasury for billions of dollars in an effort
to cower its officials into prompt compliance with the court's final judgment
and injunction, as well as to provide a significant incentive for state
officials to initiate proceedings to remove Chief Justice Moore from office."
The mention to "billions of dollars" apparently refers to the threat by
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson that fines of about $5,000 a day could be
imposed against the state if the monument were not removed by 2003-AUG-20. Titus
also wrote that the ruling also "abridges the right of the people, through
their elected representative the Chief Justice, to acknowledge God as
indispensable to the administration of justice."
Ayesha Khan, legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church
and State suggests that the Supreme Court will refuse to hear the case. She
said: "I don't think the Supreme Court would touch this with a 10-foot pole."
Professor Christopher Eisgruber of Princeton University also predicted failure.
He said: "The Supreme Court is never sympathetic to the idea that mandates of
federal courts can be ignored. I think the justices will be bothered by this.
Despite their political disagreements with one another, there's a lot of
agreement on the court for the need for the rule of law." 2
Also on AUG-15, Justice Moore asked U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson to
stay his order to remove the monument by midnight on AUG-20. Judge Thompson
refused the request. 3
2003-AUG-16: Rally to retain the monument: Various groups descended upon
Montgomery, AL to support Judge Moore and his decision to not remove the Ten
Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building. Co-organizer of
the rally, Rev. Scarborough from Vision America predicted that 25,000
would attend. Most media estimated that about 3,500 actually did show up.
Some speakers at the rally promoted the removal of the wall of separation between
church and state:
||Moore told the crowd: "It's not about me. I will pass
away...but the laws of God will remain forever... It's not about
politics. It's not about religion... Let's get it straight. It's about
one thing. It's about the acknowledgement of the God upon which this
nation and her laws are founded....If this ruling is allowed to stand,
it will reverberate from state to state to state to the nation's
Capitol and the acknowledgement of God will be taken from us. If we
sit quietly by while this inalienable right is taken even the rocks
and the trees and the stones that you see will cry out....If I should
fail to do my duty in this case, for fear of giving offense, I would
consider myself guilty of treason toward my country and of an act of
disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven which I revere above all
earthly kings....We are fighting a battle. You're a soldier , if you
don't know it...It's spiritual warfare." He read an excerpt from
one of his poems about the country's Founding Fathers: "These
men would never question the sovereignty of God...I'm glad they're not
here with us to see the mess we're in...Darkness is now called light."
||Rick Scarborough of Vision America described Judge Moore as
a "modern day Daniel being destroyed by the juggernaut of
evil...The nation is like it is because the church has fallen asleep."
He said that the conflict over the monument is a "decisive battle
in a 40-year culture war against our faith...a militant minority is
stripping vestiges of our faith from the public square." He
also said: "This is not the end of this movement. It's the birth of
this movement....We're here because we believe our God has been
||Ambassador Alan Keyes said: "What the judges are doing...is
imposing a uniform national regime of disbelief and atheism on this
country. They are doing exactly what the Constitution of the United
States forbids." He also said: "It's time to take back
what has been wrested from us by judicial tyranny -- the freedom to
live in communities that reflect our beliefs. I call on the president
and the Congress to
take a stand and finally put a bridle on these unruly courts."
||Fundamentalist pastor Jerry Falwell said: "Civil disobedience
is the right of all men when we believe breaking man's law is needed
to preserve God's law....We need
a spiritual renaissance and we need it now." Referring to Moore,
Falwell added, "When God gives you a champion, get behind him."
||Political consultant Rick Shaftan had traveled from New Jersey to
attend the rally. He said: "This thing today was one of the most
important political gatherings in the last 15 or 20 years. In my part
of the country, people laugh at this issue, but these are the very
basic American values....There's a real resentment against unelected
officials making laws and people are getting fed up with it."
||Howard Phillips, a 1996 presidential candidate and chairman of the
Conservative Caucus, suggested that the President appoint Moore
to the next vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, and that Federal Judge
Myron Thompson should immediately resign. He said: "Judge Thompson
has violated his oath of office by disregarding the constitution and
attempting to usurp and elected judge of the state of Alabama. That's
why we hold them (sic) in contempt...."They are the Benedict Arnolds
of American jurisprudence and should be stripped of their robes."
A tiny contingent of about three dozen supporters of the separation
of church and state also showed up at the rally.
||Greg McDowell, Florida State Director for American Atheists
asked: "How would he like it if people disobeyed his orders? When it
comes to this country's laws no man's ego and nobody's religion should
come above the constitution."
||One Atheist carried a sign referring to the Judicial building as "a
courthouse, not a church."
||Larry Darby, Alabama State Director for American Atheists said:
"We are here to let the world know that not all people in Alabama are
religious. There is a community of reason in Alabama, and Atheists
represent this community of reason." 4,5
2003-AUG-18: Stay of judicial order requested: Attorneys working
for Justice Moore applied to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking
a stay of the order to remove the monument by midnight on AUG-20. His
lawyers complained that U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson had acted
improperly when he stated that the State of Alabama was responsible
for the monument removal. Thompson disagreed, saying:
"The chief justice argues that this act showed a disrespect for the
sovereignty of the state of Alabama and its officials. To the contrary, this
court did this out of a profound respect for the state of Alabama and its
law-abiding public officials." The Christian Defense Coalition is
organizing a 24/7 protest starting on the early morning of AUG-21. Their
demonstrators will kneel around the monument and try to prevent its removal.
Ayesha Khan, spokesperson for for Americans
United for Separation of Church and State, said that Moore "...claims
to be a man who cares a great deal about religion, but is allowing the Ten
Commandments to be the star attraction in a circus." She suggests that
Moore might be motivated by a primarily political agenda. 3
2003-AUG-20: Some conservative Christian leaders criticize Moore's
||Jay Sekulow, founder of the American Center for Law and Justice,
criticized Chief Justice Moore's action in triggering a constitutional
||Richard Land, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty
Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, categorized
Moore's actions as "deeply disturbing."
||While appearing on the 700
Club, Marvin Olasky, editor of WORLD Magazine, criticized Moore
for selecting "the wrong ground" on which to fight. 6
2003-AUG-20: Supreme Court rejects appeal: The U.S. Supreme Court
refused to block the ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They said
that they would not be drawn into a dispute over the constitutionality of the
Associate Justice Douglas Johnstone of the Alabama Supreme Court said that he
had asked his associates to approve his proposal to move the monument to a more
private area of the judicial building. He had hoped to avoid financial
penalties. However, he did not receive the necessary five votes to implement his
The doors of the Alabama State Judicial Building, which houses the
Alabama Supreme Court, closed at 4 PM ET, an hour early. Marshals asked
everyone to leave the building if they wished to avoid being taken into custody.
Twenty-two people refused, were arrested and were taken to the Montgomery
County Jail. One was a 17-year old juvenile who was released to his parents.
Most of the rest paid a $100 bond and were released on their own recognizance.
Four refused to give their social security numbers to the officers and so
remained in jail overnight. They will eventually appear before a district judge.
Former ambassador and presidential candidate Alan Keyes called "people of
faith that really care about the restoration of America ...to come to
Montgomery." He challenged conservative public officials: "If there's
anyone...that continues to pay lip service to the conservative cause, you ask
them first if they were in Montgomery."
Montgomery TV station WSFA interviewed some attendees at the First Baptist
||Vince Thacker said: "The courts make laws now. I think this is
a shame. It's how we got abortion on demand. It's how we've gotten a
lot of things that are against God's law."
||Mark Fain added, "I would say that sometimes in life you have
to stand up for what's right. Those people are just like many people
in the Biblical standings...when they stood up for Christianity and
were willing to go the extra mile and persevere prosecution."
||Jay Wolf, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, told the
Washington Post, "There are many people, unfortunately, who have
become suspect of Justice Moore's motives."
Judge Moore has refused requests to be interviewed by local media. He is
reported to be making statements only to national media, including CBS, ABC,
CNBC and Fox. Tom Parker read a statement from Moore which said: "The
U.S. Supreme Court's denial of a stay today will not deter me from
continuing to fight for the right of our state to acknowledge God as the
moral foundation of our law. I still have pending a petition for writ of
mandamus and prohibition in the Supreme Court. I will also petition the
Supreme Court for an appeal on the merits in this case. I expect that the
court will vindicate the rule of law regarding the acknowledgement of God in
During an interview with Fox News, Moore said: "I have no intention of
resigning....The problem with politicians in office is they'll say one
thing, then when they get into office they do something else."
John Giles, spokesperson for the Alabama Christian Coalition said
that his group has permits to remain on the sidewalk for up to three weeks
and "if we need to we will." He called the the Ten Commandments
the "cornerstone of Western civilized law." He is reported as saying
that the the U.S. Supreme Court is in conflict with this order.
2002-AUG-21: Deadline passes: The date and time imposed by Judge Thompson
of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the removal of the monument has passed. The monument
was still in place. The associate
justices of the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a plywood-like curtain or
partition to be installed around the monument. The Alabama State Judicial
been closed to visitors. Only those with official business are being allowed to
Judge Moore now appears to be in violation of his oath of office, which
includes a solemn vow to uphold the Constitution. Rhonda Brownstein, legal
director of the Southern Poverty Law Center is quoted as saying that the
Center has taken three actions. They are:
||Asking for the judge's immediate resignation.
||Planning to file a a motion asking that Judge Moore be held in
contempt of court.
||Filing complaints with the Judiciary Commission concerning
Judge Moore's refusal to obey the District Court's order, and -- we
assume -- his failure to follow his oath of office. 8
2003-AUG-21: Associate Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court order
monument removal: By unanimous agreement, all eight justices of the
court issued an order that the monument to be removed. Senior
Associate Justice Gorman Houston told WSFA-TV that all eight associate
justices of the Alabama Supreme Court had agreed to issue an order
countermanding the order of Judge Roy Moore concerning the Ten Commandments
monument. Houston said they had notified the building supervisor to make
immediate plans to remove the monument to a more private location in the
building. The order stated that they were "bound by solemn oath to follow
the law, whether they agree or disagree with it."
Bill Prior, Attorney General of Alabama stated: "Today is a day to be
proud of the eight associate justices of the Supreme Court of Alabama. They
have been faithful to the rule of law. There has been a lot of talk about
the rule of law in recent days. The law means that no person, including the
Chief Justice of Alabama, is above the law. The rule of law means that when
courts resolve disputes, after all appeals and arguments, we all must obey
the orders of those courts even when we disagree with those orders. The rule
of law means that we can work to change the law but not to defy court
orders." Commenting on the potential for court-imposed fines against the
State, Prior said that he hoped that : "...in the light of this order
from the Supreme Court of Alabama and their resolve to enforce this order
promptly, that there is no need to go down that road or have that debate."
Speaking before a supportive audience in front of the Judicial Building, Chief Justice Moore said,
in part, "Let me assure you the fight to defend our constitutional rights
to acknowledge God must and will continue....I have been ordered to do
something I cannot do, violate my conscience...If the rule of law means to
do everything a judge tells you to do, we would still have slavery in this
country...I say enough is enough, that we must dare to defend our rights,
which is the motto of this great state...I will never, never deny the God
upon whom our laws and our country are based." He said that his appeals
to the U.S. Supreme Court would continue and that "to do my duty I must
acknowledge God. That is what this case is all about."
2003-AUG-21: Governor supports removal of the monument: Governor
Bob Riley issued a statement, citing the importance of obeying the laws of
the country, and concern over a potential fine for non-compliance with the
11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling:
"Today is a sad day in Alabama. Because of a series of what I
believe to be erroneous federal court rulings, the Ten Commandments
monument has been ordered removed from the Alabama Judicial Building.
Although I fundamentally disagree with what the federal courts have
ordered, the State Supreme Court was correct in unanimously voting to
uphold the rule of law."
"Because we are a society of laws, the Alabama Supreme Court has a duty
to comply with the federal court order, whether they agree with it or not.
By not complying, the state stood to incur some of the most expensive
fines ever imposed on Alabama. The suggested fines could have exceeded $1
billion within just four months. With an already underfunded judicial
system, as evidenced by the suspension of jury trials in the past, and the
current $675 million shortfall that threatens further cuts, the associate
justices took the only responsible course of action."
"Attorney General Bill Pryor should be commended for showing similar
resolve to ensure that the rule of law prevails in Alabama. General Pryor
and I will continue to pursue every possible course of legal action to
protect the First Amendment rights of all Alabamians."
"I support the public display of the Ten Commandments and have, in the
past, filed an amicus brief to the 11th Circuit in support of Chief
Justice Moore's position. In addition, I am prepared to file a similar
brief in support of his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Once this case
has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and the lower courts' rulings
have been reversed, we should not waste one second of time returning the
monument to the rotunda." 10
2003-AUG-22: Chief Justice Moore suspended from office: The
Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission -- the state's legal ethics
commission -- acted on the complaint filed by Stephen Glassroth, attorney
for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Commission referred
the complaint to the Court of the Judiciary which has the authority
to discipline and/or remove any state judge. The referral has the effect
of suspending Judge Roy Moore from his position as the Chief Justice of
the Alabama Supreme Court.
The Commission's report included five charges against Chief
Justice Moore. All were related to his failure "...to comply with an
existing and binding court order directed to him." He is charged with
"...to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary..."
"...to observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity and
independence of the judiciary may be preserved..."
"...to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all
his activities ..."
"...to respect and comply with the law as required by Canon 2A of
the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics..."
"...to conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes
public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary..."
"...to avoid conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice
which brings the judicial office into disrepute..." 11
||Dean Young, executive director of the fundamentalist Alabama
Christian Family Association, said that the Commission review would "be
making Judge Moore into a martyr." He described the investigation as "a
||Attorney Richard Cohen of the Southern Poverty Law Center said:
"Nothing could be more contrary to the canon of ethics than for a
Supreme Court justice to say that he was going to defy a federal court
||John Giles, head of Alabama's Christian Coalition, allegedly
issued an action alert to their members asking them to saturate the
Commission's phone lines with calls supporting Judge Moore. According to
reports, many hundreds of calls arrived at the office.
||U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson announced that he would call
another conference for the week of AUG-24 which will involve all of the
principals of the case. 12
Senior Associate Justice Gorman Houston will become the acting chief
justice. The court will now only have eight justices. Having an even
number might seriously affect their ability to issue definitive rulings.
Related essays on this site
"Breaking -- Moore says 'No Way!' to federal order, won't remove
unconstitutional Commandments," AANews, 2003-AUG-13.
"High court is urged to block removal of
biblical monument. Ala. judge defies order to take down display
of Ten Commandments," Associated Press, 2003-AUG-16, at:
Bob Johnson, "Alabama chief justice asks appeals court to stay monument
removal," Associated Press, 2003-AUG-19, at:
"Supporters Rally for the Ten Commandments," WSFA, Montgomery, AL,
"Moore supporters rock out, but Atheists, Freethinkers stand firm for
state-church separation," AAnews, 2003-AUG-17.
"Alabama Attorney General attempts Coup D'état against Chief Justice
Moore," Vision forum, 2003-AUG-20, at:
Gina Holland, "Court Rejects Ten Commandments Appeal," Excite News,
"What's next in the case of the 10 Commandments," WSFA.com.
http://www.wsfa.com/, as originally posted.
Ibid, as updated 2003-AUG-21 at 4:15 PM.
"Supports Ten Commandments but says Alabama can't afford to pay fines.
Riley Says Monument Must be Moved," WTVM-9 Montgomery AL, 2003-AUG-21, at:
"Inquiry Commission Issues a Complaint Against Justice Roy Moore," WSFA-TV,
"Moore suspended over Commandments monument defiance!," AANews,
Copyright © 2002 to 2004 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-AUG-14
Latest update: 2004-AUG-08
Author: B.A. Robinson