MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)–The legal options for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore were dwindling Aug. 20 as supporters began to gather in Montgomery, Ala., with hopes of stopping the removal of the Ten Commandments monument.
After Moore’s lawyers lost two separate appeals at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Aug. 19, they asked the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay and prevent the removal of the 5,300-pound granite monument in the rotunda of the state judicial building, which was placed there two years ago by Moore’s orders.
As of 3 p.m. (CT) Aug. 20, the U.S. Supreme Court, which is in its summer recess, had yet to respond to Moore’s request for a stay. Federal district court Judge Myron Thompson has ordered Moore to remove the monument by midnight Aug. 20 or face fines.
Thompson denied a request for a stay Aug. 18. Thompson and the 11th Circuit justices both noted that the deadline for requesting a stay had passed.
A Ten Commandments case from two years ago may shed light on what the U.S. Supreme Court will do. In 2001 the court refused to hear a case in which a lower court had ruled that a Ten Commandments display could not remain outside a civic building in Indiana. In a rare move, the court’s three most conservative justices — William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — issued a statement saying they would have heard the case. For a case to be heard, four justices must sign on.
Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor told the Mobile Register that he expects the monument “to be removed very soon.” Pryor has said that while he supports the monument and believes it is constitutional he is bound to uphold the law.
“I don’t want to speculate on how or exactly when it is going to happen,” Pryor told the newspaper. “I will be advising the appropriate state officials on how to proceed, and I expect they will do so.”
Pryor, a pro-life Catholic, has been nominated for a seat on the federal court of appeals and has gained the support of pro-family voters nationwide, although his position on the monument has drawn the scorn of some pro-family activists.
Vision America co-chairman Rick Scarborough criticized Pryor.
“The Attorney General of Alabama says he personally agrees with … Moore, but must uphold the law, sounding very much like Pontius Pilate as he found no fault in our Lord, then gave him over to be crucified,” Scarborough wrote in a statement on the Vision America website Aug. 19.
But Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice said he disagrees with part of Moore’s arguments.
“Judge Moore is suggesting that because he is the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court that he is not bound by a federal court decision, but that is just incorrect as a matter of law” and “as a matter of principle as well,” Sekulow said on his radio program Aug. 20.
Sekulow reiterated his support for Ten Commandment displays, saying that the ACLJ has litigated more Ten Commandment cases than any other pro-family organization in the nation.
“It is the foundation of law in the United States of America,” he said.
Sekulow said a request for a stay should have been filed weeks ago, before the deadline passed. That, he said, would have kept the monument in place “for perhaps a year.”
Sekulow also defended Pryor, who, Sekulow said, allowed Moore’s lawyers to defend the state in the case. The lack of a stay has “forced [a] constitutional showdown which puts a good friend of ours, the attorney general of the state of Alabama, in a difficult spot.
“… This is a very difficult situation that’s developing in Alabama right now.”
Stuart Roth, senior counsel for the ACLJ, said he doesn’t think the Alabama case is “end of the battle.”
“There are other cases working their way through the federal court system,” he said on the broadcast. “… Perhaps in the next couple of years at the appropriate time there will be a case before the Supreme Court.”
About 45 supporters of the monument held a candlelight prayer vigil in front of the judicial building at midnight Aug. 19, according to WSFA-TV in Montgomery. The Christian Defense Coalition, which is leading the protests, has planned prayer vigils around the clock in hopes of keeping the monument from being removed.
“It doesn’t take a lot of people to be sure that all along the way, that this is not an easy process for those who wish to remove these Commandments,” Bob Schenk of the National Clergy Council told WSFA.
While Moore is the building’s custodian, that title could be stripped by a majority vote of his associate justices, who could then order the monument removed. Associate Justice Tom Woodall told the Times Daily newspaper (Florence, Ala.) that the court will wait until after the deadline passes before deciding what, if any, action to take.
“We all know the statute exists [and it] says a majority of justices have the authority to countermand the chief justice, and that has been discussed a lot,” he told the Times Daily.
The weight of the monument may make any removal and storage difficult, the Times Daily reported. The capacity of the building’s elevators is 3,500 pounds, meaning that the monument cannot be moved freely in the building, the newspaper recounted.
Building architect Lee Sims told the Times Daily that the rotunda floor is the only floor capable of supporting such a concentrated amount of weight. The monument is about the size of a washing machine.
The newspaper speculated that any removal would involve the monument being wheeled outside — in the sight of protesters — and taken to a separate entrance in the building in order to be stored.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: WILL IT STAY OR GO?