MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The newest addition to Alabama’s judicial building is grabbing attention — and sparking a debate.
It’s a 2.5-ton, 4-foot-high monument of a scroll bearing the Ten Commandments.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore didn’t tell anyone he was putting it there — he just did.
Moore, a Republican, launched a successful campaign for the elected position of chief justice after drawing national recognition for displaying the legendary biblical rules in his courtroom in Gadsen County. Moore now says it’s his duty to post them again, in his new place of work.
"It’s under my authority that I took this action," Moore said. "I’m simply acknowledging the course of our morality, the source of our law, the source upon which our country and our laws were founded."
Not everyone agrees a model of the Ten Commandments is appropriate in a public justice building, however.
Larry Darby of Freedom from Religion Foundation said the monument makes him feel that "I won’t get a fair shot before his court because I’m an atheist."
Other opponents say that if Moore can do it, so can they. One state representative wants to display a message that inspires him, alongside Moses’ creed in the judicial building.
"I will place the wording of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have Dream’ speech there," said the representative, Democrat Alvin Holmes. "That building does not belong to Roy Moore."
Groups that want to see the Ten Commandments posted in all of Alabama’s public buildings and schools say Moore’s monument is a step in the right direction — but doesn’t go far enough.
The attempt to use the state’s constitution to allow display of the Ten Commandments in all public places failed, but supporters say they’ll try again. They plan to introduce a new bill during next year’s legislative session.
"Our polls show that 85 percent of the people of Alabama are behind the 'Ten Commandments Amendment,'" said Dean Young of the Christian Family Association. "They want a public display."
Moore’s display — front and center in Alabama’s judicial buildings — is bound to be front and center in a barrage of lawsuits. Some believe the chief justice is angling for higher political office — and that’s why he installed the monument. He denies that claim, saying the purpose of his controversial move is simple.
"We need to return to a national morality," he said. "You can't return to it unless you recognize its source."