07/01/2003

Appeals Court Upholds Ten Commandments Ruling

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that the Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama Judicial Building's rotunda is unconstitutional and must be removed. After hearing arguments in early June, a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on July 1 unanimously upheld U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson's November 18 order. The decision came in a lawsuit filed by the Center in cooperation with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore shocked the state in August 2001 when he installed the 5,280-pound monument without consulting his fellow justices. Under the cover of night, he secretly hauled the granite sculpture into the building that houses Alabama's appellate courts and the state law library. A video team from the Florida-based Coral Ridge Ministries, which raised money for Judge Moore's defense in the case, was on hand to film the occasion. The monument created a "religious sanctuary within the walls of a courthouse," said Judge Thompson in his decision.

"The law is clear, and the evidence in this case was overwhelming," said Center chief trial counsel Morris Dees, who headed the Center's legal team in the case. "Chief Justice Moore clearly crossed the constitutional line that separates church and state. By hauling the monument into the judicial building, he intended to impose his own brand of Christianity on the state. This he cannot do."

The case was an important one for the Center. "We believe that Chief Justice Moore's conduct threatens the very values of tolerance and justice that form the core of the Center's mission," Dees said.