MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)–A federal judge has ordered Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore to remove the Ten Commandments display from the rotunda of the state judicial building by Aug. 20 or face fines.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued his order Aug. 5 to Moore, who had the 5,280-pound display placed in the building just over two years ago. While Thompson did not issue a specific fine amount, he did say it could begin at $5,000 and “perhaps” double each succeeding week the monument remains in the rotunda. Payments of fines would be due at the end of each week, Thompson said in his order.
Moore has lost his case before two courts — the U.S. District Court and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He has said he will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Thompson ruled last year that the monument violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits government-established religion.
The monument features the King James Bible version of the Ten Commandments sitting on top of a granite block. Around the monument are quotes from historical figures and documents, such as the Declaration of Independence.
Speaking about the issue on his radio program Aug. 6, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice said Thompson’s order could “start a constitutional showdown.” The showdown, Sekulow noted, hinges on the fact that Moore is not willing to remove it even though under Alabama law he has “custodial charge of the building.”
The Supreme Court could issue a stay of Thompson’s order while it decides if it wants to hear the case, Sekulow said.
“Normally, those stays are granted, so we may in fact see an avoidance of what may be a constitutional showdown in Alabama,” Sekulow said.
A Southern Baptist pastor in Alabama told Baptist Press that Moore has wide support in Alabama from both Christians and non-Christians.
“I think he has some popularity in the culture at large simply because he was proven to be a man who is willing to speak his mind and who is willing to even take the consequences of standing for what he believes in,” said David Prince, pastor of the Birmingham-area Raleigh Avenue Baptist Church in Homewood. “He stands in opposition to the cultural left that wants to mandate its values upon everybody else. He recognizes the real values that are part of our heritage and history.”
The display no more violates the Constitution “than the fact that my money” says, “In God We Trust on it,” Prince added.
“[I]t’s irrefutable that our justice system is rooted in values and those values are rooted in the Scripture, and it simply recognizes that,” Prince said. “It’s not the coercion of anybody to do anything. It’s just the recognition of our heritage.”
Thompson, in his Aug. 5 order, said it is the “obligation of the State of Alabama (acting through the Chief Justice and, should he fail or be incapable of carrying out his duty under the rule of law, some other appropriate state official) to remove” the monument.
Thompson further stated that he does not envision “a scenario in which there would be an opportunity for any physical confrontation between federal and state officials or between federal officials and anyone else. If called upon, this court intends, at this time, to achieve compliance by first exhausting the traditional civil-contempt process of levying fines.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: COURT ORDER.