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Judge Moore cleared of ethics charges over Ten Commandments defense fund

GADSDEN, Ala. (BP)–Judge Roy Moore has been cleared of ethics questions involving a legal defense fund for the Ten Commandments displayed in his courtroom, according to a Sept. 2 Associated Press report.
Moore, Etowah County Circuit Court judge based in Gadsden, Ala., and a Southern Baptist, told a courtroom full of supporters God’s righteousness had prevailed after St. Clair County District Attorney Van Davis said he had found no evidence to support an Alabama Ethics Commission complaint alleging the judge may have violated state law, the AP reported.
In June, the state ethics commission had voted 5-0 that probable cause existed for charges that Moore illegally profited from a defense fund established by a friend who supported Moore’s fight to keep the Ten Commandments display in his courtroom, the AP recounted. The case was forwarded to Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor and then assigned to Davis.
The AP reported more than $100,000 in donations was received by the defense fund for Moore’s fight against the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged his display and his practice of starting court sessions with prayer. The Alabama Supreme Court eventually dismissed the ACLU’s case without ruling on the merits.
Concerning the ethics allegations, Davis said Moore neither solicited donations himself nor controlled the fund, the AP reported, quoting Davis as saying, “Our investigation revealed no evidence that Judge Roy Moore used his office for personal gain.”
Among the fund-raising activities was an Internet site that offered various sizes of the Ten Commandments carved in stone, the most expensive, a 20-inch set, available for $149.95, according to a 1997 report in USA Today.
Moore said the case had not been about ethics, but had been “an effort to stop the message that the acknowledgment of God … is not now nor has ever been nor ever will be a violation of the First Amendment,” the AP reported.
Moore posted the Ten Commandments in 1992 as an acknowledgement of God’s hand in his appointment to the bench to replace a deceased judge, USA Today reported.
“The president is sworn in on a Bible. Congress opens each session with a chaplain. The Supreme Court opens with ‘In God we trust,’” Moore told USA Today. “My point is this: If all three branches of government acknowledge God, how can it be wrong for the state of Alabama to acknowledge God?”
According to the AP report Sept. 2, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission also has been investigating Moore, apparently questioning whether his Ten Commandments activities have violated any rules of judicial ethics. But, the AP said, the commission operates confidentially and has not commented about the probe.

Compiled by Art Toalston.