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‘Ten Commandments Judge’ wins chief justice seat in Alabama

GASDEN, Ala. (BP)–Judge Roy Moore, who became nationally known in the mid-1990s as the “Ten Commandments Judge” for defying a court order to remove a hand-carved wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments from his Alabama courtroom, was elected Nov. 7 as chief justice of the State Supreme Court.

Moore, 53, a Southern Baptist laymen and Etowah County Circuit Judge, defeated state Court of Civil Appeals Judge Sharon Yates by garnering 53 percent of the vote to Yates’ 47 percent.

With 64 percent of the state’s precincts reporting, Moore, a Republican, had 517,289 votes. Yates, a Democrat, had 452,715 votes.

“Remember the one responsible for it all, and that’s God,” Moore told supporters during his acceptance speech at a senior citizens center, where an alternative Christian rock group and church orchestra also performed, The Birmingham News reported.

“This campaign is about morality,” he said. “It’s about the loss of morality in our state and nation.”

During his campaign, Moore said he would take his Ten Commandments plaque with him to the Alabama Supreme Court if elected. He did not specify, however, whether he would hang it in his private chambers or on the wall behind the court’s bench.

Moore said his campaign was driven by his belief that God’s law, as revealed in the Bible, is the source of man’s law, and Christian principles form the foundation of American government and jurisprudence.

In his quest for Alabama’s chief justice post, Moore has been 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.

“We’ve forgotten that judges shouldn’t be running around trying to form society into something they think it should be,” Moore told The New York Times during his campaign. “They’ve taken something from us that is the most valuable thing that our forefathers held dear, the freedom to worship God publicly, privately, in the manner we choose.”

Yates, who is also a Southern Baptist, stated in her campaign ads that the Bible and the Ten Commandments are central to her life, but that she relies on the Constitution for her rulings as a judge.

“I think the chief justice’s role as the head of the third branch of government is much more than a single issue,” Yates told The Birmingham News following the election.

Moore is an Etowah County native, graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and University of Alabama law school and Vietnam veteran.

Moore’s rise to Alabama’s top judicial post arguably began in 1995, a year after his election to a six-year term as Etowah County Circuit Court judge. That’s when the American Civil Liberties Union sued Moore for displaying his handmade Ten Commandments plaque on the wall behind his court bench and having ministers open court sessions with prayer.

Moore’s popularity soared after he defied a fellow Alabama judge’s order to remove the plaque. The Alabama Supreme Court later overturned the ruling on a technicality without deciding if Moore’s practices are constitutional.

The judge found himself again in the middle of controversy in 1999 when the Alabama Ethics Commission filed charges alleging Moore illegally profited from a defense fund established by a friend who supported the judge’s fight to keep the Ten Commandments display in his courtroom.

Moore was later cleared of ethics questions by investigators who said the judge neither solicited donations nor controlled the fund.

At the time, he said the ethics charges were simply “an effort to stop the message that the acknowledgment of God … is not now nor has ever been or ever will be a violation of the First Amendment,” the Associated Press reported.

Moore succeeds retiring Chief Justice Perry Hooper Sr.

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  • Lee Weeks