MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore told thousands of supporters Saturday that he would be guilty of treason if he didn’t fight to keep a monument of the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the state judicial building.
Drawing cheers and shouts of “amen” at a rally, Moore said his crusade to keep the 5,300-pound monument was not about bolstering his own political career, as some have claimed.
“Let’s get this straight. It’s about the acknowledgment of God,” Moore said in front of the Alabama Capitol.
Buses and vans from as far away as California brought Moore supporters to Montgomery for an enthusiastic rally on a hot and muggy morning. Evangelist Jerry Falwell and former presidential candidate Alan Keyes were among a half-dozen speakers urging the crowd to take back America from what Keyes described as the “unruly courts.”
The rally was organized after U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in Montgomery ordered Moore to remove the monument from the judicial building by Wednesday. Thompson and a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that the monument is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government.
Police would not estimate the size of the crowd, which appeared to be several thousand people, possibly as many as 10,000.
Falwell said Moore is right to defy Thompson’s order if he believes he is obeying God.
“Civil disobedience is the right of all men when we believe breaking man’s law is needed to preserve God’s law,” Falwell said.
Evelyn Bradley of Norwalk, Calif., said she made the trip because “the Ten Commandments is the most precious and most important thing in my life right now.”
“No judge has the right to tell us we can’t post them,” said Bradley, 73.
After the rally hundreds of people walked several blocks to the judicial building, where they lined up to view the monument inside. Some debated with about 35 atheists holding a counterprotest across the street.
“Personally I believe in science and reason and the only way you can have freedom of religion is to have separation of church and state,” said Todd Kinley, a research scientist from Huntsville participating in the counterprotest