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Judge Moore’s Ten Commandments fight is focus of TV special, defense fund

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (BP)–Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s battle to display the Ten Commandments is the focus of a one-hour telecast, “The Ten Commandments on Trial,” produced by Coral Ridge Ministries.

Hosted by D. James Kennedy, the program will air on more than 200 stations nationwide during the Feb. 15-17 weekend. It will examine the debate sparked last August when Moore, a Baptist layman, ordered the installation of a Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the state Supreme Court building in Montgomery.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suits Oct. 30 in federal court charging that Moore’s 5,280-pound granite display is an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, would be happy, he states on the Coral Ridge Ministries program, “to see Chief Justice Moore’s monument removed and put in an appropriate place, perhaps in a local church.” But, as Kennedy remarks on the program, the Ten Commandments are “the foundation of our laws [and] yet they’re forbidden in the courthouse?” Kennedy is president of Coral Ridge Ministries and senior minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale.

Coral Ridge Ministries has announced its commitment to Moore’s legal defense and the Ten Commandments and is seeking to raise $200,000 for the Ten Commandments Defense Fund on Moore’s behalf. So far, $50,000 has been provided to the fund from Coral Ridge Ministries.

“We are happy to provide this first installment toward the target we have set to provide for the legal defense of Chief Justice Roy Moore,” Kennedy said. “These funds collected by Coral Ridge Ministries come from thousands of concerned individuals nationwide who believe, like America’s founders, that God and the Ten Commandments have a place in public life.”

“This case, in its essence, is … about the very essence of our identity as a nation: whether we remain one nation under God and whether we still have the freedom to acknowledge God and his law in public life,” Kennedy said.

The Ten Commandments on Trial, which includes video footage of the Ten Commandments installation last August, will air Saturday, Feb. 16, on TBN at 7 p.m. Eastern and Sunday, Feb. 17, at 11 a.m. Eastern on “The Coral Ridge Hour,” which also air nationwide, Sunday, Feb. 17, on more than 200 stations. Visit www.coralridge.org for local times and stations.

Moore, who was elected to the chief justice’s post in November 2000, holds the authority to handle administrative matters relating to the court, an attorney for Moore, Stephen Melchoir, told the Associated Press after the monument’s installation last year. A fellow state Supreme Court justice, Gorman Houston, acknowledged the same fact to the Birmingham News.

The 4-foot-tall, 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument was placed in the Supreme Court building in Montgomery during the night of July 31. Moore did not consult with his fellow justices, Houston said.

“To restore morality, we must first recognize the source from which all morality springs,” Moore said in a brief ceremony to unveil the monument Aug. 1. “From our earliest history in 1776 when we were declared to be the United States of America, our forefathers recognized the sovereignty of God.”

Moore, who came into the national spotlight for fighting to display the Ten Commandments in a county courthouse, also said in his remarks to several dozen people, “When I ran for the office of chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I made a pledge to restore the moral foundation of law. May this day mark the beginning of the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and a return to the knowledge of God in our land.”

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, was quoted by the Birmingham News as calling the Ten Commandments monument “a monumental violation of the U.S. Constitution.”

An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, Joel Sokol, told the Birmingham News at the time that if the Ten Commandments monument’s “primary thrust is a religious thrust,” then it is a violation of church and state.

“If the Ten Commandments display is part of an overall larger display involving the development of law in this country, then it is clearly permissible,” Sokol said. “The Ten Commandments has a role in the development of our secular law.”

Moore’s monument does include quotes from historic figures and documents engraved on the base beneath the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments monument in the Supreme Court rotunda did not involve any public funds, Moore said, telling reporters that he and a sculptor from Huntsville and other private donors had covered its cost.

According to an Americans United news release last October, plaintiffs against the Ten Commandments monument in the state Supreme Court building are two attorneys who are Southern Baptists, Robert Beckerle and Wade Johnson, and an attorney who is a Catholic, Melinda Maddox. The two suits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery.

Moore, of Gadsden, became known in the mid-1990s as the “Ten Commandments Judge” for prevailing against the ACLU-obtained court order to remove a hand-carved wooden Ten Commandments plaque he displayed as a circuit judge in Etowah County.

In November 2000, Moore defeated state Court of Civil Appeals Judge Sharon Yates, also a Baptist, for the chief justice position, garnering 53 percent of the vote to Yates’ 47 percent.

Upon assuming office, Moore displayed the wooden plaque in his outer office.

In his quest for Alabama’s chief justice post, Moore was openly critical of the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedent-setting decisions over the last 50 years such as legalizing abortion and banning teacher-led prayer in school. He also contended that the removal of God from public life has contributed to school shootings and the expansion of homosexual rights.

Moore is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the University of Alabama law school and a Vietnam veteran.

He succeeded retiring Chief Justice Perry Hooper Sr.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CONTROVERSIAL MONUMENT.