Chief Justice Will Not Remove 10 Commandments Monument: Other Justices Meet

Published: Aug. 14, 2003 at 5:25 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2003 at 11:32 PM CDT
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Ten Commandments Monument
Ten Commandments Monument
Listen to Judge Moore's comments with Windows Media player.(4MB)
Listen to Mr. Glassroth and the SPLC statement(1MB)
Listen to Judge Moore's Attorney answer questions (4MB)
Listen to Mr. Glassroth and the SPLC answer questions(6MB)
The case of the Ten Commandments monuments continues to occupy the time of many people around the state and the nation.

Senior Associate Justice Gorman Houston says he and the other justices met on Chief Justice Roy Moore's refusal to obey a federal court order to remove Ten Commandments monument.

Houston says the justices agreed to "take whatever steps are necessary to make certain that the state of Alabama and the Unified Judicial System of the state does not have to pay fines."   No announcement of action was issued by the justices.  According to state law, a majority of the nine justices may overrule administrative action by an Alabama chief justice.

Chief Justice Roy Moore says he has no intention of removing the monument and has filed with the U.S. Supreme Court for a Writ of Prohibition to stop Judge Thompson from removing the monument and "stop this interference with state government."

The justice's lawyers say that Judge Myron Thompson's decision "has threatened to invade the Alabama treasury for billions of dollars in an effort to cower its officials into prompt compliance with the court's final judgment and injunction, as well as to provide a significant incentive for state officials to initiate proceedings to remove Chief Justice Moore from office.''   The lawyers also state Thompson's ruling "abridges the right of the people, through their elected representative the Chief Justice, to acknowledge God as indispensable to the administration of justice."

The required paperwork was filed with the court Friday, but it is unclear when it will be processed by the justices, who are on their summer break.

Meanwhile supporters of the chief justice are gathering in Montgomery for Saturday's rally in front of the state capitol.  Vision America and the Christian Defense Coalition are organizing the rally which is scheduled for 10: 00 a.m. Saturday.  According to the rally's web site speakers scheduled to speak include Ambassador and former presidential candidate Alan Keyes and the Reverend Jerry Falwell.

And Judge Moore's decision is being talked about around the country.  The American Center for Law and Justice's Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said on his radio program Friday that while he staunchly supports and defends the display of the Ten Commandments, Moore's actions are "putting the showdown in place, and I think this will create some real difficult situations in Alabama on this issue."

Sekulow says, "Now the state of Alabama is in a very difficult position because they are technically and legally violating a duly authorized federal court order from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that they did not ask to be stayed. This puts the situation in flux and in a very serious constitutional position. Personally, if I was trying the case, I would have asked for the stay ...I'm not so sure that in that showdown, legally speaking, Judge Moore is correct here."

The appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court will most likely land in the chambers of Justice Anthony Kennedy who normally handles appeals from the three states of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

Nationally known minister and writer Bishop T.D. Jakes said in Birmingham on Friday that the Ten Commandments "transcends beliefs and theology (and are) based on core values and morality that every American should want to embrace."

Judge Moore said Friday evening that "We think we have  a very excellent argument based on the 11th and 10th amendments."

During the Thursday announcement of his decision, Chief Justice Moore said, "The entire judicial system of the State of Alabama is established in the Alabama constitution invoking the favor and guidance of almighty God. The 10th amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits federal courts from interfering with that power to establish a judicial system They have no power, no authority no jurisdiction to tell the State of Alabama that we cannot acknowledge God as the source of our law."

Moore also said that the object of the federal court order was to "take away our rights as a state to acknowledge God.... Alabama will never give up its rights to acknowledge God ."

"I have maintained the rule of law, I have been true to my oath of office, I can do no more," concluded Moore.

Governor Bob Riley released a statement Thursday saying, "I have a deep and abiding belief that there is nothing wrong or unconstitutional about the public display of the Ten Commandments and disagree with the court's mandate to remove them."

Opponents of the justice say a judicial ethics complaint has been filed against Moore. Plaintiff Stephen Glassroth says, "The Chief Justice has violated the cannons of judicial ethics by announcing his intentions to violate a valid and lawful court order. The Chief Justice's actions will lead to anarchy and we must respect the rule of law."

Glassroth's attorneys say the Judicial Inquiry Commission will determine whether or not there is reasonable cause to show that Judge Moore violated the judicial cannon of ethics. If the commission finds cause and refers the matter to the Court of the Judiciary , Moore would probably no longer to act as chief justice pending resolution of his case. Moore would however continue to receive his salary.

Should Moore's case be heard by the Court of the Judiciary, Senior Associate Justice Gorman Houston would be acting chief justice pending resolution of the case. Houston has already voiced disapproval of Moore's action in the case.

Attorney General Bill Pryor released a statement saying, "Although I believe the Ten Commandments are the cornerstone of our legal heritage and that they can be displayed constitutionally as they are in the U.S. Supreme Court building, I will not violate nor assist any person in the violation of this injunction. As Attorney General, I have a duty to obey all orders of courts even when I disagree with those orders. In this controversy, I will strive to uphold the rule of law. We have a government of laws, not of men. I will exercise any authority provided to me, under Alabama law, to bring the state into compliance with the injunction of the federal court, unless and until the Supreme Court of the United States rules in favor of Chief Justice Moore."

Moore had the gray granite monument moved into the judicial building in the middle of the night on July 3, 2001.

Federal Judge Myron Thompson of Montgomery, who ruled the monument violates the constitution's ban on government promotion of religion, said fines of about $5,000 a day could be imposed against the state if the monument were not removed.