`Ten Commandments' judge guest at Md. rally

Ala. justice endorses effort of conservative legislators

October 04, 2003|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Chief Justice Roy Moore, Alabama's celebrated `Ten Commandments' judge, brought his own brand of defiance to Maryland yesterday as he endorsed an effort to put the General Assembly on record behind his cause.

Moore gained national attention this summer when he refused a federal court's order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he installed in the rotunda of the Alabama Judiciary Building. Yesterday, he told several dozen supporters that the U.S. District Court judge who issued the injunction exceeded his constitutional powers.

"We must acknowledge God," Moore told a news conference. "The acknowledgement of God is not forbidden by the First Amendment."

The monument was moved out of public view in August after the eight other justices of Alabama's Supreme Court ordered the building manager to comply with the federal court order, which had been upheld by an appellate court.

Moore was invited to Maryland by the Institute on the Constitution, a Pasadena-based conservative group that wants strict limits on the ability of federal courts to decide issues involving the separation of church and state.

He was joined by Frederick County Sen. Alex X. Mooney and Anne Arundel County Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr., two of Maryland's most conservative Republican legislators.

Mooney and Dwyer announced plans to introduce a resolution in next year's General Assembly session asserting that "Maryland declares its independence from federal court interference with religion."

The resolution asks Congress to pass legislation restricting the courts' power to rule on religious issues, including government displays of the Ten Commandments.

Speaking with a fervor more often seen in the pulpit than on the bench, Moore repeated the arguments rejected by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, who ordered the removal of the monument known as "Roy's Rock."

"This acknowledgement of God is historic, it's legal and it's logical," said Moore, who sported a Ten Commandments lapel pin on his black suit.

David Rokah, staff attorney for the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the Constitution protects private expressions of faith but forbids government endorsement of religion.

"What the Roy Moores of the world want to do is eliminate this distinction," Rokah said.

The ACLU lawyer said it would be surprising if the Mooney-Dwyer resolution were approved by the legislature. Even if it were, it would have "no practical effect," Rokah said.

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