Commandments Removed, but Alabama Judge Unmoved; the Inscriptions on the Monument Are in Line with Court Rulings, He Argues

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 31, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Commandments Removed, but Alabama Judge Unmoved; the Inscriptions on the Monument Are in Line with Court Rulings, He Argues


Byline: Frank J. Murray, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Removal of his Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court rotunda last week did not alter Chief Justice Roy Moore's stance. That will take a higher power than the U.S. Supreme Court.

"It's not even an open issue, no matter what the Supreme Court says," Chief Justice Moore's attorney, Herbert W. Titus, said in an interview. "We live under a tyranny of judges, and that is not the American system.

"This is a matter of conscience. It's in God's hands," Mr. Titus said.

Mr. Titus, also a special deputy Alabama attorney general, insisted Chief Justice Moore will not let a federal interpretation of the Constitution override his own.

Mr. Titus conceded in the interview last week that federal courts typically permit the use of religious symbols by government - including the motto "In God We Trust" and the U.S. Supreme Court's own display of Moses with the Ten Commandments - only when accompanied by social, cultural or historical materials.

But the inscriptions with the Commandments on the monument installed by Chief Justice Moore, all mentioning God, are within those bounds, he argues.

"The movement of the monument does [in] no way stop our efforts to get this reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court," Mr. Titus said.

A formal request for a hearing likely will be filed in September, he said. Last week, the high court rejected an emergency request to block removal of the monument, but did not rule on the merits.

Federal courts consistently have required that religious displays be justified by a secular, or nonreligious, purpose. Within that context, federal courts have allowed Christmas or Hanukkah observances and a cross on the Ohio State Capitol grounds. They also have upheld Sunday closing laws that establish a uniform day of rest.

An array of sometimes contradictory decisions has muddled the point of separation of church and state - including acceptance of references to God on U.S. currency and official prayer by Congress and the Supreme Court. Some local governments also have been allowed to keep Ten Commandments displays while others have been asked to remove them.

In June, shortly before the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered removal of the monument installed by Chief Justice Moore, the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia permitted Chester County, Pa.

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