This Day in the Law
August 1

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore Installs Ten Commandments at Alabama Supreme Court (2001)

On August 1, 2001, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore installed a monument with the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama judiciary building. The controversy around Moore’s actions generated national attention. A lawsuit followed shortly thereafter to remove the Ten Commandments and Moore from office.

The First Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, along with his architect, and some other supporters paid for a four foot tall, 5,280 lb (or over 2 ½ ton) monument of the Ten Commandments. Moore then had the monument placed in the entryway of the Alabama Supreme Court chamber. This quickly gained national attention in the press.

Critics of Moore said he was violating the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. Moore and his supporters argued that the 10 Commandments act as the foundation for the U.S. Constitution. Moore publicly stated that we must recognize that all morality, and law, comes from our Creator, God. Moore emphasized that from the birth of U.S. democracy our founding forefathers all recognized the importance of God within our laws. Moore also pointed out the fact that his very own Oath into the office as a state supreme court justice references the “Almighty God.”

Moore’s case was appealed to U.S. District Court where Judge Myron Thompson held Moore’s placement of the 10 Commandments were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. However, Moore refused to obey the order by the federal district court. Shortly thereafter, Moore’s own eight colleagues seated on the Alabama Supreme Court unanimously held that Moore was in the wrong.

Moore’s actions were finally reviewed by an ethics commission. And in November 2003, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary unanimously removed Moore from his position as Alabama Chief Justice. The Commission found that Moore “willfully and publicly” disobeyed an order from the courts to remove the monument.

INTERESTING NOTE: Polls taken during and after Moore’s removal from office showed that the majority of Americans supported Moore’s decision to install the 10 Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court. In fact, over 75% of Americans disapproved of the federal court’s decision to make Moore remove the 10 Commandments.