When Roy Moore became state circuit court judge in Alabama in 1992, he embarked upon a path where he would be less an impartial judge of others cases and more the passionate player in his own legal battles. It is not clear whether he had any idea just how much attention his actions would draw, but it seems unlikely that he was completely ignorant of what might happen.
What did Moore do which has caused so much controversy and attracted so much attention? He has done two things, basically: he posted a hand-carved wood plaque of the Ten Commandments in his court room, and he opened court sessions with prayers led by a local clergyman.
In 1995, the ACLU filed a complaint against Judge Moore, claiming that the Ten Commandments and the courtroom prayers violate the First Amendment. A court ruled against Moore a potentially explosive ruling because he would have refused to obey the order to stop prayers and remove the Ten Commandments plaque. That, however, was defused because the Alabama Supreme Court issued a stay of those orders pending an appeal before the state high court.
Eventually, that court dismissed the case entirely, finding that the ACLU lacked sufficient standing necessary to challenge Moores actions, but that didnt entirely end the controversy, because Moore wasnt finished with his efforts to ensure that his religious beliefs were united with the government not simply for him, but also for others.
In 2000, Moore was elected to the position of Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. No longer content with his personally carved plaque of the commandments, he installed at the end of July, 2001, a four-foot-tall, 2-ton granite display of the Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. This was done late at night, after all the other employees had left the building.
Moore never consulted with the other justices about his monument nor did he seek their counsel or consent before placing it in the rotunda. According to Moore, he is the highest legal authority in the state, empowered to do just about anything he wants, especially where the Judicial Building is concerned. At a ceremony the following day, Moore emphasized his belief that America (and the American government) needs to do more to acknowledge his religious beliefs, saying:
- It is axiomatic that to restore morality, we must first recognize the source from which all morality springs. From our earliest history in 1776, when we were declared to be the United States of America, our forefathers recognized the sovereignty of God.
Of course, not everyone agreed with such sentiments, and the placement of this new Ten Commandments display was challenged in federal court by several lawyers who practice in Alabama and who regularly have to work in the Judicial Building. On November 18, 2002, a US District Court ruled against Moore in the case of Glassroth v. Moore.