Ten Commandments back on display, but they're not alone
By Robert Marus
ABP Washington Bureau
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (ABP) –The Ten Commandments are back on display in Alabama's judicial headquarters, but their self-appointed cheerleader reportedly isn't happy about it.
Earlier this month, workers installed a display containing a manuscript of the Commandments as well as other historical law documents in the rotunda of the state's Judicial Building in Montgomery. The display is located near where the state's now-deposed chief justice, Roy Moore, had installed a different display of the Decalogue.
That display, which was removed by federal court order Aug. 27, was a 5,280-pound granite monument that featured, on top, a carving of the Protestant King James translation of the Commandments. The sides contained quotations from historical figures about the roles of God and government. It sat at the center of the rotunda.
But the new exhibit is a bit different. Besides being located away from the center of the rotunda, it contains a reproduction of the oldest known manuscript of the Commandments alongside seven other historical legal documents. They include the Constitution and the Magna Carta.
Federal courts have said displays that include the Commandments in educational exhibits along with other documents that contributed to the history of lawmaking are constitutionally permissible. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley installed such a display in the state Capitol building.
Moore was removed from his office Nov. 13 after the state's Court of the Judiciary ruled unanimously that he had violated judicial ethics by defying federal court orders.
During the summer, Moore was at the center of a highly publicized legal battle over the original monument. He had the statue installed in the rotunda of the state's judicial headquarters building in 2001 without consulting with or informing his colleagues on the Alabama Supreme Court.
Two federal courts ruled the monument was a violation of the First Amendment's ban on government establishment of religion. After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Moore's appeal, a federal judge ordered the monument removed.
Moore refused to comply with the order, saying it would violate his oath of office. That oath to uphold the Alabama and federal constitutions required him to “acknowledge God,” he said.
Moore's colleagues voted to suspend him from office temporarily, and workers in the building moved the statue to a room where it was locked away from public display.
But Moore reportedly is dissatisfied with the new arrangement. “First, they hid the Word of God in a closet, and now they tried to hide it among other historical documents,” he said, according to the Associated Press, about his former colleagues' decision to set up the new display. “Neither is an acknowledgment of God, and they know it.”
But the Huntsville (Ala.) Times' editors, in the paper's Feb. 9 edition, said Moore's own words on the topic betrayed his true motives. “Did you need any more evidence that Moore's goal throughout all this has been to promote his particular brand of religion?” they asked. “Does anyone fail to see why the federal courts ruled that Moore's monument promoted one faith over another?”
Moore has appealed his dismissal to the Alabama Supreme Court. His former colleagues have recused themselves from hearing the case, and a specially appointed Supreme Court was recently sworn in. That panel will hear Moore's appeal later this year.
Moore also has filed a federal lawsuit to attempt to regain his position, claiming his removal amounted to an unconstitutional “religious test” for public office.