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Runaway judiciary is central issue in controversy surrounding the public display of the Ten Commandments, Land says

WASHINGTON (BP)–Judge Roy Moore’s monument to the Ten Commandments may have been locked up in a private room in the Alabama Supreme Court building, but the ruling to remove the monument has sparked a national debate that shows no sign of letting up.

Richard Land said he, like a majority of Americans, is displeased with the direction the courts are pushing the country. And he doesn’t plan on letting this issue rest, saying his concern with the way Judge Roy Moore handled the federal court order to remove the monument that featured the Ten Commandments and quotes from America’s founding fathers will not dampen his longstanding efforts to warn Americans that some judges appear intent on eroding the nation’s constitutional protections on religious expression.

Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told USA Today the order to remove the monument in Montgomery was just another in a long line of efforts to forbid and restrict what the Aug. 28 article referred to as “the images and language of faith.”

The problem is not the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, the real problem is federal judges running roughshod over a right to religious expression that is secured for citizens, including Judge Moore, in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, Land said.

The order by Federal Judge Myron Thompson to remove the Ten Commandments was a “terrible ruling,” Land said on his nationally syndicated talk show, “Richard Land Live!” Aug. 23. He said this “ruling is bigger than a statue in the Alabama Supreme Court building,” calling it further evidence of an ongoing pattern of attempts by judges to “impose a secular bias on public places.”

He said the issue at its heart is whether Americans are going to allow the federal courts to tell citizens they can’t express their religious convictions or “acknowledge America’s religious heritage.”

“I believe we need to use our power as citizens to change the laws and change the judges,” he said. “This is blatant and rank discrimination against Christianity and against our Judeo-Christian heritage.”

Warning the country has a “runaway, dictatorial judiciary,” he said, “We’re getting to a point where there a lot of people who are being forced to choose between their conscience and obeying court orders,” in an Aug. 28 Washington Post story.

Land said he believes there is a direct connection between the order to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court building in Montgomery, Ala., and the offices of the minority leadership of the U.S. Senate in Washington.

The linkage? A refusal of Senate Democrats to allow a vote on President Bush’s judicial nominees who will strictly interpret the Constitution, Land said.

In an appearance on Fox News Network’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” Land urged viewers to contact their senators and urge them to drop the filibuster that is holding up a vote on the nominees.

“Tell your senators you don’t want them to filibuster these nominees,” Land said Aug. 27. “You want Bush’s strict constructionist nominees on the court.”

Land reminded O’Reilly that Alabama State Attorney General Bill Pryor, who has been at the center of the controversy of the federal court order to remove the monument, is himself a nominee for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. This is the “very 11th Circuit that ruled so wrongly in this case,” he said.

Pryor’s nomination was voted out of the Senate Judiciary committee on July 23 on a 10-9 party-line vote for consideration by the full Senate. But like other Bush nominees to the Circuit Court, no vote has been taken. Cloture votes to break the Democrats’ filibuster of Miguel Estrada, nominee to the D.C. Circuit of Appeals, and Priscilla Owen, nominee to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, have failed. Carolyn Kuhl, a nominee to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, still awaits Senate action. Kuhl is a nominee to the same court that ruled the inclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional.

In a May 9 Baptist Press story, Land said Senate Democrats were “engaging in a grotesque misuse of minority power.”

“This is not a partisan issue,” he continued. “This is a constitutional issue. I would feel the same way if it were a Democrat president whose judicial nominees had been abused in this manner.

“The Constitution does not [allow] the Senate to advise and obstruct, but either to advise and consent or advise and deny by voting down a nominee,” he said.
Tom Strode contributed to this article.

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  • Dwayne Hastings