Oct 10, 2002

A lawsuit challenging State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore's Ten Commandments display has wrapped up in Alabama.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama filed suit against Moore after he arranged to have a two-ton sculpture of the Ten Commandments placed in the lobby of the Judicial Building in Montgomery.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said the suit, which was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, raises crucial issues of fairness and justice.

"The legal system is for everyone -- not just those who belong to a religion that Roy Moore approves of," said Lynn. "Moore's display would be fine in a house of worship, but it's wholly inappropriate in a government facility."

Moore has received backing from a variety of Religious Right groups, including Florida TV preacher D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries. Kennedy has contributed money to Moore's defense. In a fund-raising letter mailed this month, Kennedy asserted, "The stakes are huge in this battle."

AU Legal Director Ayesha Khan, one of two lead attorneys in the case, said Americans United has no problem with the Ten Commandments but believes that government must remain neutral on questions of religion.

"When it comes to religion, the United States is an increasingly diverse nation," Khan said. "Moore has essentially taken one religious viewpoint and enshrined that as the Alabama Supreme Court's favored one. His action violates the Constitution and shows great cultural insensitivity."

Continued Khan, "All residents of Alabama -- no matter what their religious or philosophical beliefs -- should feel welcome at the Judicial Building. No one should be made to feel like an outsider because he or she does not share the state's favored belief."

Aside from the Americans United-ACLU case, a separate legal action against Moore was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The federal judge has consolidated the two lawsuits into one under the name Glassroth v. Moore. A decision is expected soon.

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.