Accessibility links

Ten Commandments Monument Removed from Alabama Courthouse; Debate Continues - 2003-08-27


In the southern U.S. state of Alabama, movers wheeled a controversial monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the state's judicial building in compliance with a federal court order.

The 2,000-kilogram monument of the Ten Commandments has been moved out of sight but the controversy it stirred continues to grab public attention.

The debate focuses on differing interpretations of the Constitution's guidance on issues of separation of church and state. The issue has come up several times before, notably in 1962 when the U.S. Supreme Court barred officially sponsored prayer in the public schools

The controversy erupted after a federal judge last year ruled that displaying a monument of the Ten Commandments in Alabama's government building violated the U.S. Constitution's ban on government promotion or endorsement of religion.

Alabama's Chief Justice, Roy Moore, argued that the display had nothing to do with religion.

"You got to understand this is not a religion," he said. "The acknowledgement of God is not a religion. It's a responsibility and validated by the Constitution."

Judge Moore was suspended earlier this month for refusing to obey the court order to remove the monument, which he had installed in Montgomery's courthouse during the middle of the night two years ago.

Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center told American TV the statue's removal was a matter of respect for the law and religious diversity. Mr. Dees took part in the lawsuit demanding its removal.

"The First Amendment clearly said there has to be separation of church and state," said Mr. Dees.

Christian groups rallied behind Judge Moore and tried to block the monument's removal.

A Christian radio talk show host and a religious cleric filed a lawsuit to keep the Ten Commandments stone in its public setting on the grounds that removing it would violate the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion.

Scores of Christian protesters continued their week-long prayer vigil outside the Alabama state Judiciary building Wednesday, even after the monument was wheeled off to a more private location in the courthouse.

"And Lord, we pray that you would change the heart of Alabamans to such a point that they're going to stand and say in this place and this time we honor God's word," they prayed.

One of the Christian groups taking part in the prayer vigil has threatened a boycott and other economic repercussions for the moving company that wheeled the monument away.

Judge Moore is expected to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

XS
SM
MD
LG