Dec. 18, 2002
Alabama Chief Justice Roy S. Moore won his seat campaigning as the
Ten Commandments Judge, and he has lived up to his billing. On August
1, 2001, he unveiled a magnificent two-and-a-half ton granite tribute
to the Ten Commandments and other inspired words in the colonnaded
rotunda of the Alabama State Judicial Building.
Shaped like a cube, this four-foot-tall monument displays the Ten
Commandments on the top. Each of the four sides of the cube features
famous American words: "Laws of nature and of nature's God" from the
Declaration of Independence (1776), "In God we Trust" from our national
motto (1956), "One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and
justice for all" from our Pledge of Allegiance (1954), and "So help me
God" from the oath of office in the Judiciary Act (1789).
The remaining space on the sides of the cube is filled with
quotations from famous Americans such as George Washington, Thomas
Jefferson and our first Chief Justice John Jay, from William
Blackstone, and from our National Anthem.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit to get a
court to remove the monument. Several years ago, when Roy Moore was a
lower court judge, an ACLU suit failed to get a small hand-carved Ten
Commandments plaque removed from his courtroom, but this time, the ACLU
found a Jimmy-Carter-appointed federal judge willing to intervene in
Myron H. Thompson was confirmed as a federal judge by the
Democratic Senate in 1980, only a few months before the Reagan
landslide. If the Republicans had delayed confirmation, a Reagan
appointee would have filled the seat Thompson now holds.
Judge Thompson held a week-long trial, ruled the Ten Commandments
monument unconstitutional and ordered it removed from the State
Judicial Building. It took him 76 pages to present his rationale for
this decision in Glassroth v. Moore.
Thompson's principal argument is that "the Chief Justice's actions
and intentions" violate the Establishment Clause of the First
Amendment. Unable to demonstrate that the monument itself violates the
First Amendment, Thompson's decision redundantly rests on Chief Justice
Moore's speeches, writings, intentions, campaign literature, and even
his association with Coral Ridge Ministries which filmed the
installation of the monument.
Thompson, who personally went to view the monument, pronounced
"the solemn ambience of the rotunda," and the fact that he got the
impression there is "a sacred aura" about the monument, as an
additional reason why it is unconstitutional. He pretended to see the
"sloping top" of the Ten Commandments tablets as unconstitutionally
making the viewer think that they are really an open Bible in disguise.
The "air" about the monument that he finds intolerable is
augmented, he said, by the fact that it is "in front of a large picture
window with a waterfall in the background" so you really can't miss
seeing the monument. Thompson concluded that "a reasonable observer"
would "feel as though the State of Alabama is advancing or endorsing,
favoring or preferring, Christianity."
What a non sequitur! There is nothing on the monument about
Christianity. Does Thompson think the picture window and the waterfall
somehow transform the Ten Commandments, which are Jewish law, into
The most far-out lines in this opinion are Judge Thompson's
repeated references to Chief Justice Moore's belief in "the Judeo-
Christian God." Thompson accuses Moore of "an obvious effort to
proselytize" on behalf of his Judeo-Christian religion and even of
being "uncomfortably too close" to supporting the adoption of a
Judge Thompson is solicitous to prevent anybody from getting the
idea that he is against the Ten Commandments. So he patronizingly
opines that other Ten Commandments displays on public property are okay
because the tablets Moses holds are blank, or the tablets merely show
Roman numerals I through X, or the Commandments are inscribed in
It's hard to see how even Judge Thompson's "reasonable observer"
could think that anything was written on Moses' tablets except the same
Ten Commandments that are on Chief Justice Moore's monument.
This case has nothing to do with establishing a religion or a
church, which the Establishment Clause forbids. The case simply poses
the question, does the First Amendment prohibit us from acknowledging
God on public property or in a public forum?
As the Ten Commandments monument inscriptions remind us, our
nation historically and currently acknowledges God in our Pledge of
Allegiance, in our motto, on our money, in our oaths of office, in the
Declaration of Independence, and in our National Anthem. This case is
similar to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals case which earlier
this year ruled (now on appeal) that "under God" in the Pledge of
Allegiance is unconstitutional.
The ACLU attorneys who won in Thompson's court are now demanding
that Chief Justice Moore personally pay $704,000 in legal fees. If
they really spent that extraordinary sum on this ridiculous case, it
just proves how determined the ACLU is to remove all references to God
from the public forum.