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Ten Commandments Return to Ala. Courthouse

The Ten Commandments (search) are back in the Alabama Judicial Building, this time in an exhibit that opened Thursday and features seven other historical documents.

The display stands just across the rotunda from the spot once occupied by a 5,300-pound granite monument to the commandments that cost Roy Moore (search) his job as chief justice in November.

The new display is intended to be permanently based in the rotunda, though it will be sent to county courthouses around the state upon request, said acting Chief Justice Gorman Houston (search).

Houston said the idea for the display arose after Moore's monument was wheeled into a storage room at the judicial building Aug. 27. But he said it was not a response to the federal court-ordered removal, and Moore was not consulted about it.

The new display includes the Ten Commandments as one of many sources of Western law, an arrangement that courts have found permissible.

Attached to a black Velcro background about 10 feet long and 8 feet tall are photocopies of the oldest known manuscript of the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta (search), the U.S. Constitution and other documents. A 31-page booklet containing the text of all eight documents is in the display.

The exhibit is similar to one Gov. Bob Riley (search) put in the Capitol about two weeks after Moore's granite monument was removed.

Moore, who was ousted by a judicial ethics panel for refusing to obey the federal court order to move his monument, said the display is a capitulation to civil liberties groups that sued to remove his monument.

"First, they hid the word of God in a closet, and now they tried to hide it among other historical documents. Neither is an acknowledgment of God, and they know it," Moore said.

Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (search), one of three organizations that sued to have Moore's monument removed, said the new display seems acceptable.

"Unlike Moore's monument, it does not appear to have the purpose or effect of promoting religion," Cohen said.

Houston said he formed a committee a month or two ago to look into creating the exhibit, and that he and others donated all the money needed for the display.

The committee that approved the exhibit was headed by Justice Jean Brown and included Attorney General Bill Pryor and representatives of the State Archives, State Historical Commission and both state appellate courts.