A gracEmail subscriber has asked for my comments, as an attorney and a Christian teacher, regarding the controversy surrounding the installation of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial Building and the federal judge’s order to remove the monument on which they are inscribed.
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Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is much in the news lately. As a trial court judge, he hung a framed copy of the Ten Commandments in his Alabama courtroom. More recently, as the highest-ranking judge in his state, Mr. Moore had a 5,280-pound granite monument installed in the Alabama supreme court building engraved with the Decalogue and an assortment of God-honoring quotations from various legal and quasi-legal American sources.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and two other groups filed suit and federal judge Myron Thompson ordered Mr. Moore to remove the monument on grounds that it constituted an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The 11th U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Thompson’s order. Chief Justice Moore refused to comply, appealing to divine authority and to his own interpretation of the First Amendment. After the federal judge threatened substantial fines, the other justices of the Alabama Supreme Court voted unanimously to overrule their chief and agreed to remove the monument.
To some observers, Mr. Moore is a heroic defender of religious liberty and states’ rights, standing bravely against the encroachments of secular culture and an oppressive federal judiciary. Others see him as an opportunistic fundamentalist, defiantly resisting the rule of law for his own political ends. We do not need to judge Mr. Moore motives, or even his methods, in order to reflect on the legal situation. Because this is a topic of considerable interest to many gracEmail readers in the United States, I want to make a few observations about it in the next few gracEmails — begging the indulgence of subscribers throughout the rest of the world.