MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Armed with quotations from U.S. history, the "Ten Commandments judge" unveiled a monument to the Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court building Wednesday morning.
Chief Justice Roy Moore presented the monument, which is four feet tall and holds two tablets with the Ten Commandments displayed on them. It weighs 5,280 pounds and is displayed in the Supreme Court rotunda. Engraved on the granite are quotes from America's forefathers supporting the Commandments' basis as the foundation for law.
"To restore morality we must first recognize the source from which all morality springs," Moore said in a speech after the statue was unveiled. "From our earliest history in 1776 when we were declared to be the United States of America, our forefathers recognized the sovereignty of God."
When Moore was a circuit judge in Gadsden, he fought a legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union and others to keep his handmade plaque of the Ten Commandments posted in his courtroom. The litigation ended without a ruling on the merits of the case, but Moore's fight made him a national figure and helped get him elected chief justice.
Since moving to the Alabama Supreme Court in January, Moore has displayed his Ten Commandments plaque in his outer office rather than in the Supreme Court chamber, which has brought no complaints from the ACLU.
Moore used his authority as the leaseholder of the Supreme Court building to place the monument in the entryway Tuesday night, said his attorney, Stephen Melchior. The other Supreme Court justices were not advised before the monument was built or put in the building.
No taxpayer money was used, Moore said. He said the monument was paid for by himself, sculptor Richard Hahnemann and other private donors. Its cost will be revealed in about a week, Hahnemann said.
The ACLU hasn't decided whether it will pursue a lawsuit to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Supreme Court, but there may be Constitutional problems with the monument, said Joel Sogol, an attorney with the ACLU.
"Our courts should enforce secular law, and not God's law," Sogol said. "No one should be made to feel as an outsider in their own community — certainly there are going to be any number of people who ... get the message that they don't belong."
Another group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has said a lawsuit will likely be filed.
The Commandments do not have to be displayed with other historic documents, as ruled in 1997 by Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price, said J. Scott Barnett, staff attorney for the Supreme Court. The court dismissed his decision, making it invalid, he said.
Moore's decision to display the Commandments is a step in the right direction, said Dean Young, Moore's ex-spokesman and current executive director of the Christian Family Association.
"The next step would be to let the people know that this is not something he's doing for political gain," Young said. "It's imperative that Judge Moore state unequivocally he's not going to use this for higher office — for governor or for Sen. (Jeff) Sessions seat."