Federal Court Strikes Down Ten Commandments Display At Alabama Supreme Court

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore's Religious Crusade Dealt Legal Setback

A federal court in Alabama today struck down display of a Ten Commandments monument at the state supreme court building in Montgomery, declaring that the religious sculpture violates the First Amendment's church-state separation provisions.

U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson ruled that the two-ton granite sculpture of the Ten Commandments must be removed from the state Judicial Building. The monument was placed in the building's lobby in July of 2001 on orders from Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Moore has been crusading to have government endorse the Ten Commandments for years. As a state judge in Etowah County, he adorned his courtroom with a hand-carved Ten Commandments plaque. Elected chief justice in 2000, Moore vowed to display the Decalogue at the Judicial Building as well.

"This ruling is a big setback to Roy Moore's religious crusade," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, which cosponsored the litigation. "It's high time Moore learned that the source of U.S. law is the Constitution, not the Bible."

Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit against Moore on behalf of local residents who opposed the religious display on government property. The case, Glassroth v. Moore, has drawn national attention.

Lynn noted that the lawsuit was not an attack on the Ten Commandments. "Many Americans revere this moral code," said Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister. "However, it is not the job of government to single out one religious code and hold it up as the state's favorite. Promoting the Ten Commandments is a task for our houses of worship, not government officials."

Judge Thompson said today that the religious display "violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment" and ordered Moore to remove the monument within 30 days.

Moore has received backing from national Religious Right leaders, chiefly from Florida TV preacher D. James Kennedy. Kennedy has raised money for Moore's defense and even sold a video of Moore supervising placement of the Ten Commandments sculpture in the building on the evening of July 31, 2001. Moore waited until the building was empty and then had the 5,280-pound sculpture brought in.

Moore did not consult with the other justices of the court before taking the action. He later told the Los Angeles Times, "I'm the highest legal authority in the state, and I wanted it there."

Ayesha Khan, Americans United Legal Director and lead counsel in the case, said, "Today's decision protects religious liberty for everyone in Alabama. It affirms that the courts of Alabama will give equal justice to persons of all religious faiths."

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.