Enforcing the separation of church and state
Lawyers concerned about state endorsement of religion and possible bias against their clients said they were offended when the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court installed a religious monument in the rotunda of the state judicial building. Without the associate justices' awareness or consent, the 2 1/2-ton monument was installed under cover of night in August 2001.
They said they were afraid that their clients might not get a fair hearing if they did not share the justice's religious beliefs and that the sight of visitors to the state building kneeling and praying before the Ten Commandments monument was disturbing. They wanted the monument removed.
The Center sued Chief Justice Roy Moore on their behalf, alleging that his actions violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution and the principle of separation of church and state. The suit was litigated in cooperation with the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson agreed and ruled that the monument created "a religious sanctuary within the walls of a courthouse" and must be removed. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision on July 1, 2003. Moore refused to remove the monument, and his defiant refusal to obey the federal courts led to his suspension as Chief Justice.
In addition to the state Supreme Court, the building where the monument sits houses the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court of Civil Appeals, the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts, and the state law library.
The monument was removed from public view under order of the associate justices on August 27, 2003. After a decision by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, Moore was removed from office due to ethics violations on November 13, 2003.
11/18/2002: Judgment for the plaintiff (229 F.Supp.2d 1290)
07/01/2003: Judgment affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit (2003 WL 21499258 (11th Cir. Ala.)
08/27/2003: Monument removed from public view