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Glassroth v. Moore (2002): Judge Roy Moore & His Ten Commandments Monument

Background of the Case

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Can a government official erect a massive monument to the Ten Commandments in a government building by asserting that they have a secular rather than a religious purpose? What if that official has a long history of supporting displays of the Ten Commandments for religious reasons?

 

Background Information

Roy Moore has a long history in Alabama as an advocate for the Ten Commandments and being challenged over his display of the Ten Commandments in his courts. In 1995 the ACLU sued him over this display and his practice of holding prayers before trials, but the suit was dismissed on a technicality.

In 2000, he was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, partly on his fame and popularity over the Ten Commandments issue, and on August 1, 2001, Chief Justice Moore unveiled a 5,280-pound granite monument in the rotunda of the Alabama State Judicial Building, which houses the Alabama Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court of Civil Appeals, the state law library, and the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts. This was done without consultation with other justices and after everyone left for the day. The monument was placed alone in the center of the rotunda and anyone entering the building has no choice but to immediately see it.

The top of the monument is carved as two tablets with rounded tops which are engraved with the Ten Commandments as excerpted from the Book of Exodus in the King James Bible. Secular quotations about God are also on the sides of the monument — but Roy Moore, who designed the monument, emphasized that they were placed on the side rather than the top because those statements come from men rather than God and, hence, cannot be placed on the same plane. The purpose of the monument, according to Moore, as to begin a “restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and a return to the knowledge of God in our land.”

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