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Last-Ditch Lawsuit Filed to Prevent Removal of Ten Commandments Monument

August 26, 2003

Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended last week for disobeying a federal court order to remove a two-ton monument of the Ten Commandments he had installed two years ago. We hear a debate between the plaintiffs’ lead counsel Brian Chavez-Ochoa and Southern Poverty Law Center’s Richard Cohen.

A dramatic scene unfolded yesterday in Montgomery, Alabama. A crowd of over 300 people turned the courthouse into a campground rallying for a seventh straight night in support of Chief Justice Roy Moore.

In July 2001, without the permission of the other justices, Chief Justice Roy Moore installed a two-ton Ten Commandments monument in the State Supreme Court.

Moore was suspended by a state judicial ethics panel last week for disobeying a federal court order to remove it.

Speaking to the crowd yesterday Moore said: "I have acknowledged God as the moral foundation of our law. It is my duty. Should I keep back my opinion at such a time as this? For fear of giving offense? I should consider myself guilty of treason and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven."

Supporters of the Ten Commandments monument yesterday filed a last-ditch lawsuit to prevent its apparently imminent removal from the Alabama Judicial Building.

The suit was filed in federal court in Mobile on behalf of a Christian radio talk show host and a pastor. It says a forced removal of the monument would violate the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.

After his 1992 appointment as a circuit court judge Roy Moore held prayers in his courtroom and adorned a wall with a hand-carved plaque of the Ten Commandments. That prompted an unsuccessful 1994 suit that initiated his steady rise from obscurity to the highest judgeship in the state.

He rejected requests to include in the courthouse a statue of an atom or a copy of the Koran arguing that American law was based on Judeo-Christian beliefs.

  • Richard Cohen, general counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center which represented one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Chief Justice Roy Moore seeking the removal of the Ten Commandments monument.
  • Brian Chavez-Ochoa, lead counsel for the plaintiff who filed a lawsuit yesterday to try to keep the granite block where it is. He is lead counsel for Operation Rescue West, an anti-abortion group involved in the courthouse protest.

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