MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)–A monument with the Ten Commandments has been placed in the Alabama Supreme Court’s rotunda at the order of Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was elected to the position last November.
Moore as chief justice has the authority to handle administrative matters relating to the court, an attorney for Moore, Stephen Melchoir, told the Associated Press. 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, a Baptist layman 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.”
“Moore’s religious crusade is almost certain to spark a lawsuit. Our legal department is already investigating the issue,” Lynn said.
An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, Joel Sokol, said his group is exploring possible legal action and believes that “courts should enforce secular law and not God’s law.”
If the Ten Commandments monument’s “primary thrust is a religious thrust,” then it is a violation of church and state, Sokol told the Birmingham News.
“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.”
Quotes from historic figures and documents have been engraved on the base beneath the monument’s stone tablets with the Ten Commandments.
Moore prevailed against the ACLU in his prior battle over the hand-carved wooden Ten Commandments plaque he displayed as a circuit judge in Etowah County.
No government funds were used to create the Ten Commandments monument or place it in the Supreme Court rotunda, Moore said, telling reporters that he and a sculptor from Huntsville and other private donors had covered its cost.
Moore, of Gadsden, became known in the mid-1990s as the “Ten Commandments Judge” for prevailing against a court order to remove the Ten Commandments plaque.
Last November, 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.