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Judge suspended over Ten Commandments

CNN, USA
Aug. 22, 2003
www.cnn.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Saturday August 23, 2003

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) — Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended Friday pending the outcome of an ethics complaint for defying a federal court order to move a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building.

The plaintiffs who sought the monument’s removal — Stephen Glassroth and Melinda Maddox — filed the complaint with the state judicial board of inquiry, arguing that Moore is guilty of judicial misconduct for failing to carry out a court order.

The board referred the case to Alabama judicial court, which will hold a trial-like proceeding where evidence of alleged wrongdoing will be presented and Moore will have a chance to defend his actions. Should they find him guilty, that court has the power to punish Moore — and even remove him from the bench.

Related
Alabama Supreme Court order: Glassroth v. Moore (FindLaw, PDF)

11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling (FindLaw, PDF)

U.S. Constitution, Cornell University

During his suspension, Moore will continue to receive his salary, but will be prohibited from carrying out his duties as a judge.

Moore’s supporters prayed outside the state judicial building Friday evening.

Meanwhile, Alabama state officials have made plans to remove the 5,300-pound monument from the building, attorneys for those demanding the removal told CNN Friday.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, who ordered the monument to be taken out, held a conference call Friday morning with both sides in the case that led to his ruling.

According to attorneys for the plaintiffs, State Attorney General Billy Pryor said during the call that removal plans are under way, but he gave no specifics.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys said they were satisfied and planned another phone conference in a week.

They said they hope the monument will be removed by then. And if it isn’t, they will revisit the possibility of pursuing contempt charges against the state — which could trigger $5,000-a-day fines until the monument is removed.

On Friday, Moore stood near the monument as he talked to Judicial Building manager Graham George, who was instructed Thursday by the rest of the justices on the state’s high court to carry out the removal, according to a report from The Associated Press. It wasn’t known what was said.

In an interview Friday with CNN, Moore made it clear he would not back down.

“The issue is: can the state acknowledge God?” he said. “If this state can’t acknowledge God, then other states can’t. … And eventually, the United States of America … will not be able to acknowledge the very source of our rights and liberties and the very source of our law. …

“When a court order departs from the law and tells you what you can think and who you can believe in,” he said, the judge issuing that order is “telling you to violate your oath. And he can’t do that. Judges simply don’t have that power.”

Thompson, in his ruling, agreed with the plaintiffs that the massive monument, prominently displayed in the rotunda, violates the constitutional ban on government promotion of religion.

A federal appeals court refused to overturn the ruling. Moore has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

After the deadline to remove the monument expired at midnight Wednesday, the Alabama Supreme Court’s eight associate justices ordered that the monument be removed “as soon as practicable.”

“The refusal of officers of this court to obey a binding order of a federal court of competent jurisdiction would impair the authority and ability of all of the courts of this state to enforce their judgments,” the justices ruled.

The Ten Commandments monument early Friday morning, through the double glass doors of the entrance to the State Judicial Building in Montgomery.

Pryor, Moore’s fellow Republican who has been nominated for a federal judgeship, applauded the justices’ order. “The rule of law means that no person, including the chief justice of Alabama, is above the law,” he said.

Asked on CNN whether he would support an Islamic monument to the Koran in the rotunda of the federal building, Moore replied, “This nation was founded upon the laws of God, not upon the Koran. That’s clear in the Declaration (of Independence), so it wouldn’t fit history and it wouldn’t fit law.”

Moore installed the monument in August 2001 without consulting other justices. The lawsuit was filed shortly afterward.

CNN Correspondent David Mattingly contributed to this report.

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