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Moore seeks reinstatement in appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (BP)–Judge Roy Moore has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an Alabama judicial ruling that removed him as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

The appeal was filed July 29, according to Moore and his legal team at a news conference Aug. 2 in Montgomery.

Two key issues are raised in the appeal, according to the Foundation for Moral Law, a Montgomery-based organization defending Moore and seeking to advance his views on constitutional issues:

“(1) the Alabama courts violated the First Amendment by forcing Chief Justice Moore to choose between acknowledging God and his elected position, and (2) Chief Justice Moore was denied due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment because the Alabama courts refused to hear his defense that the federal court order demanding that he remove the Ten Commandments monument was itself unlawful and not ethically binding on him.”

Moore, who was elected as Alabama’s top judicial official in November 2000, ordered that a granite Ten Commandments monument be placed in the State Judicial Building’s rotunda in July 2001. Moore declared his action as consistent with his duties as chief justice and did not consult with the court’s other justices.

After losing numerous court battles over the monument in 2002 and the first half of 2003, Moore was removed from office last November by an Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, which ruled that he had violated the state’s code of judicial ethics by not following a federal court order to remove the Ten Commandments monument. Moore lost an appeal of the commission in an April ruling by a Special Alabama Supreme Court, which was formed after Moore’s fellow justices recused themselves from the case.

The privately financed 5,300-pound monument was removed from public view in the judicial building by state workers in August 2003.

The name of Moore’s Supreme Court appeal is Roy S. Moore v. Judicial Inquiry Commission of the State of Alabama. The petition can be viewed through the Foundation for Moral Law’s website, www.morallaw.org.

“This is about Judge Moore’s acknowledgment of a Judeo-Christian God,” one of Moore’s attorney’s, Phillip L. Jauregui, told the Aug. 2 news conference, according to the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper.

Moore has contended that he is upholding the Alabama constitution, which states in its preamble that the “people of Alabama” invoke “the favor and guidance of Almighty God.”

“When I took an oath of office, I professed, ‘So help me God,’” Moore said during the news conference, according to the Advertiser. “Every state and public official who was sworn into office took that same oath. Even Congress says a prayer before beginning business. Every state institution acknowledges God, so why can’t I?”

Moore also described the issue as “a state body saying, ‘Think like we do or you can’t keep office,'” the Advertiser reported. “The [Alabama Supreme Court] basically said you will not hold public office if you will not deny God.”

The judge acknowledged, “If the Supreme Court doesn’t hear [the appeal], then it will be over.” If so, “then I’ll have to sit down and consider what I’m going to do from there.”

Moore’s appeal asks the court, in part, to rule on: “Whether, under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment as applied to the States, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary required an unconstitutional religious test as a qualification to public office when it removed Alabama Chief Justice Roy S. Moore from office because he refused to obey a federal court order — and unrepentantly would continue to refuse any similar court order — prohibiting him from freely acknowledging God as the moral foundation of law.”

Among the arguments in the Moore’s appeal referencing Supreme Court precedent:

“[The U.S. Constitution’s] Establishment Clause does not license government to treat religion and those who teach or practice it, simply by virtue of their status as such, as subversive of American ideals and therefore subject to unique disabilities. Government may not inquire into the religious beliefs and motivations of officeholders — it may not remove them from office merely for making public statements about religion [or God], or question whether their actions stem from religious conviction. In short, government may not … fence out from political participation those … whom it regards as overinvolved in religion. Religionists no less than members of any other group enjoy the full measure of protection afforded speech, association, and political activity generally. The Establishment Clause … may not be used as a sword to justify repression of religion or its adherents from any aspect of public life.”

Moore first came to the national spotlight as a county court judge in Alabama who prevailed in court when challenged by the ACLU for having a Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom.

In other news involving Moore’s legal battle:

— A former Moore appointee, Tom Parker, upset incumbent Alabama Supreme Court Justice Jean Brown in the June 1 statewide Republican primary. Brown, the only incumbent in a re-election race, had joined in court rulings against Moore.

Parker won the contest by a 51-49 margin and will face Democrat nominee Robert Smith of Mobile in November.

Parker served under Moore as deputy administrative director of courts. He has been a legal adviser and spokesman for Moore since the chief justice’s removal from office and is affiliated with the Foundation for Moral Law as special projects manager.

Parker had been endorsed by the conservative Alabama Republican Assembly in April and by numerous other conservative groups that have rallied to Moore’s cause.

“Far too many liberal judges are trying to remove the acknowledgment of God from every vestige of our public life,” Parker writes on his campaign website. “It’s important that our state judges not only have the right beliefs, but the courage to stand for those beliefs when they come under fire.”

Three other candidates endorsed by Moore, however, lost in the primary, including Jauregui, who was trying to unseat six-term Republican Congressman Spencer Bachus, and two Supreme Court hopefuls.

— The Ten Commandments monument is now touring the country. Its first stop was in Dayton, Tenn., where the evolution-versus-creation “Scopes Monkey Trial” took place in 1925. According to news reports, the tour will include an Oct. 22 rally in Washington. It is being sponsored by an organization named American Veterans in Domestic Defense.

— The Hoover Chamber of Commerce in suburban Birmingham found itself in the spotlight for firing the son of the executive pastor of CrossPoint Community Church where Moore and his family attend. CrossPoint is a Southern Baptist congregation in Gadsden.

Christopher Word, the chamber’s membership services director, “was terminated,” according to a statement by the chamber’s attorney, “for making political statements while he was in the course and scope of his employment,” the Birmingham News reported in May.

Word, who wears a gold pin on his lapel shaped like stone tablets and engraved with Roman numerals one through 10, said he had simply told a chamber member that Moore is “a very good family friend.” Word has since taken another job.

— A bill has been filed in Congress, titled the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004 and sponsored by two Alabamians, Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Robert Aderhold, to amend the federal judicial code “to prohibit the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal district courts from exercising jurisdiction over any matter” involving the “acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government” by a federal, state or local government or official.

The bill in the Senate, S. 2082, is in the Judiciary Committee; in the House, H.R. 3799 is in the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. No hearings have been held on the proposed legislation.

There are five co-sponsors in the Senate -– Sam Brownback of Kansas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Wayne Allard of Colorado, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Zell Miller of Georgia.

Among the 33 co-sponsors in the House are three Alabamians, Terry Bachus, Terry Everett and Mike Rogers.

Last year, Rep. Chip Pickering, R.-Miss., and Sen. Wayne Allard, R.-Colo., introduced similar bills to clarify that Ten Commandments displays and other acknowledgments of God are among the powers reserved to the states. Their legislation would exempt such acknowledgments from the jurisdiction of federal courts below the Supreme Court.

Pickering’s bill, H.R. 3190, was titled the Safeguarding Our Religious Liberties Act; Allard’s proposal, S. 1558, was titled the Religious Liberties Restoration Act. In addition to the Ten Commandments, other acknowledgments that would be protected under the bills are “In God We Trust” for the national motto and the use of “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Nationwide, numerous cases over the Ten Commandments continue to percolate in the courts –- many involving a face-off between the Jay Sekulow-led American Center for Law for and Justice, or ACLJ, versus the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU.

In a case in Ohio, the ACLJ has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit declaring unconstitutional a display of the Ten Commandments –- along with other historical documents –- outside four high schools in Adams County. The appeals court subsequently refused to review the panel’s ruling on the ACLU-initiated lawsuit.

“It is an undisputable fact that the Ten Commandments played a significant role in the development of our legal system in this country,” Sekulow said in a July 12 news release. “We believe the federal appeals court got it wrong and that the Supreme Court now needs to step in to clarify an increasingly confusing area of the law.

“Nothing in our constitution or the Supreme Court’s interpretation of it require that high school students be shielded from exposure to things religious. And in the Adams County case, the displays merely recognize the fact that religion has played an enormous role in the development of civilization and our legal system. We are hopeful the Supreme Court takes this case and overturns the federal appeals court decision.”

The ACLJ has asked the Supreme Court to take the case because the Sixth Circuit’s decision conflicts with other decisions involving the display of the Ten Commandments in the Third, Fifth and Tenth Circuits as well as the Colorado Supreme Court.

The ACLU filed suit in 1999 against the West Union-based Ohio Valley School Board, which had included a disclaimer that the monuments did not endorse religion. In 2002, the school board added a display at the schools titled, “Foundations of Law and Government,” that included monuments highlighting the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta and the Code of Justinian. The school board said the display was intended to “inform Adams County/Ohio Valley high school students about some of the essential documents that the board believes form the foundation of American law and government.”

Ten Commandments displays, despite the court challenges, draw healthy polling numbers.

In a survey by Ellison Research released in June, 86 percent of Protestant ministers said such displays should be allowed. Virtually all clergy from within a framework reflecting the more conservative National Association of Evangelicals concurred (95 percent), but the issue was more divisive within those affiliated with the National Council of Churches, among whom 65 percent believed such displays should be allowed and 35 percent said they should not be.

Strong support for Ten Commandments displays was registered in several denominations: 98 percent among Pentecostal/charismatic churches, 96 percent among Southern Baptists, 96 percent among other Baptist groups, 76 percent among Methodists and 66 percent among Lutherans.

Ellison, based in Phoenix, conducted the research for Facts & Trends, a magazine published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.