Roy Moore is a West Point graduate, a Vietnam veteran, the only
Republican circuit court judge in Etowah County - and a Christian.
For almost a year, he has been embroiled in a lawsuit pitting
him and his supporters - those who view America as a Christian
nation - against the American Civil Liberties Union and the
plaintiffs they represent, who want Moore to leave his Christian
beliefs outside the courthouse door.
It all started when Moore, 47, brought his hand-crafted plaque
of the Ten Commandments into the courtroom. Plaintiffs, defendants
and lawyers who face the judge can hardly ignore it hanging on the
wall over Moore's right shoulder. The judge, who says he is
carrying on an Alabama tradition, also invites local Christian
clergy to pray at the beginning of each jury organizing session.
At a time when communities nationwide are involved in issues of
school prayer and religious expression in public places, those in
Alabama who support Moore point to the lawsuit as further evidence
of the undermining of religious freedom as protected under the
It is time we in America wake up and realize what's happening
and take a stand," Moore has said. "We're losing our liberties . .
. I firmly believe if we don't take a stand, it won't be long until
the church and the people of God will be persecuted, as opposed to
being restricted as they are now."
Moore's first hint that someone in Etowah County found his Ten
Commandments plaque offensive was a newspaper article placed
anonymously on his bench. The story told of a similar plaque
removed by court order from a courthouse in Cobb County, Ga. Then
he received a copy of a letter sent by the ACLU of Alabama to the
chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, asking that all
courtroom prayers be stopped.
In March, the ACLU of Alabama filed suit against Moore on
behalf of the Alabama Freethought Association and three Etowah
County plaintiffs. The suit seeks removal of the plaque and an end
to prayers in Moore's courtroom.
In early December, Moore countered by filing a suit against the
ACLU, saying the group has infringed upon his First Amendment
rights. He explained that it has been a "long-standing practice" to
invite local pastors and laymen to open jury sessions and that he
gives jurors the opportunity to leave the room if they do not wish
Joel Sogol, attorney for the ACLU in Tuscaloosa, Ala., has a
different take on the situation. "You ought not be subpoenaed to a
location to be prayed over. If you don't show up, you get picked up
by the sheriff. Or you can be directed, if you don't want to do
this, to get your butt up and get out of the courtroom. …