Reuters, Nov. 18, 2002
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Reuters) – A federal court in Alabama Monday ordered the removal of a Christian Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, saying it violated the constitutional ban on government promotion of religion.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled the monument, a two-ton granite sculpture placed in the building on the orders of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, violated a clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states government will make no laws regarding an establishment of religion.
“The evidence is overwhelming and the law is clear that the chief justice violated the Establishment Clause,” Thompson said in the ruling.
The sculpture has been displayed in the rotunda of the judicial building in Montgomery, Alabama, which houses several courts as well as the state law library, since July 2001.
Thompson said while he did not believe all displays of the biblical Ten Commandments on government property were improper, Moore crossed the line between “the permissible and the impermissible.” Moore was given 30 days to remove the sculpture.
A spokeswoman at Moore’s office in Montgomery said the chief justice had no immediate comment on the ruling.
The ruling noted that Moore, who was elected chief justice in 2000, had displayed a plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom while a state court judge, and had invited clergy to lead prayer before trials.
The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which along with the American Civil Liberties Union (news – web sites) of Alabama and Southern Poverty Law Center sued Moore on behalf of residents who opposed the display, said in a statement that the suit was not an attack on the Ten Commandments.
“It is not the job of government to single out one religious code and hold it up as the state’s favorite,” Lynn said. “Promoting the Ten Commandments is a task for our houses of worship, not government officials.”