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Alabama Chief Justice Ray Moore Speaks to the Media

Aired August 14, 2003 - 14:33   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Back now to God and man in Montgomery. As we told you at the top of the hour, Alabama's chief justice is locked in a battle of wills over a matter of faith, the Ten Commandments. let's listen in.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROY MOORE, ALABAMA SUPERIOR COURT: Appreciate you coming. I've asked you to come here so I could respond publicly to that order of Judge Myron Thompson which ordered me as chief justice of the state of Alabama and the state of Alabama to remove the monument to the Ten Commandments sitting in the rotunda of Alabama Judicial Building.

However, before I give my response, I think it's very important to understand what this issue is about. First, what it is not about is the Ten Commandments. I have in my hand the order of Judge Thompson and would like to quote to you what Judge Thompson said about the Ten Commandments. He said, "But in announcing this holding today, the court believes it is important to clarify at the outset that the court does not hold that it is improper in all instances to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings, nor does the court hold that the Ten Commandments are not important, if not one of the most important sources of American law."

Judge Thompson specifically outlined the issue in closing arguments in the trial when he said can the state acknowledge God? He then found that by my actions I acknowledge the God of the Holy Scriptures as the foundation of our law and the source of the Ten Commandments that it was unconstitutional. The court simply said that to recognize God, who God is, is unconstitutional.

But herein lies the problem. You see the power of the entire judicial system of the state of Alabama is established in the Alabama constitution invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God. The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits federal courts from interfering with that power to establish a justice system. They have no power, no authority no jurisdiction to tell the state of Alabama that we cannot acknowledge God as a source of our law.

Indeed, in an unprecedented exercise of power, Judge Thompson joined 14 other state officials in this controversy by serving them with a notice of this injunction. He joined the governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, the treasurer, the administrative director of courts, eight associate justices and the clerk of the Alabama supreme court.

And then in an effort to frustrate and intimidate these state officials, Judge Thompson has threatened enormous fines and penalties for failure to obey his unlawful dictates.

But this is not the first time that Judge Thompson has demonstrated such a callous disregard to the people of Alabama and the public treasury of this state. Only last month, July 22 of 2003 in Reynolds v. McInness, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated another order of Judge Thompson in a case which has continued for 18 years and has cost this state over $125 million. And is still costing this state $750,000 each month.

I have the opinion of the 11th Circuit in my hand. Let me read to you what the 11th Circuit said about Judge Thompson's actions in this case. They said, "This unwieldy litigation has been afflicting the judicial system and draining huge amounts of public funds from the state of Alabama for much too long. The amounts are staggering. Fifty million dollars in public funds has been spent on attorney's fees alone in the case. An additional $62.5 million has been paid out in consultant and expert costs. If contempt fines are added to the total, the case has cost the taxpayers of the state of Alabama $125 million thus far, and the tab is increasing at the rate of $750,000 per month." A simple mathematic calculation will show you that we are paying $25,000 a day in this case.

Now, once again, Judge Thompson seeks to force his will on the people of this state afflicting the judicial system, and threatening to drain huge amounts of public funds from the state of Alabama. But this time, this time, the object is to take away our right as a state to acknowledge God.

Our state motto is we dare defend our rights. We should never allow the threat of financial penalty to deter us from the defense of an inalienable right. Alabama will never give up its right to acknowledge God. The acknowledgement of Almighty God is the basis for our system. It is the source of our law, it is the foundation of our country. The Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776 clearly stated that "we hold these to be self-evident that men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

That organic law, according to the United States code annotated, recognizes the supreme judge of the world immediately after we were first called the United States of America.

You see, separation of church and state never was meant to separate God from our government. It was never meant to separate God from our law. Even the First Amendment, whose very purpose is to allow us the freedom to worship Almighty God. But today that freedom is being taken us from by federal courts who misuse the First Amendment as a sword to take away our rights instead of a shield to preserve them for us.

As chief justice of the state of Alabama, it is my duty to administer justice system of this state, not to destroy it. I have no intention of removing the monument of the Ten Commandments and the moral foundation of our law. To do so would, in effect, be a disestablishment of the justice system of this state. This, I cannot and will not do.

But in a larger sense, ladies and gentlemen, the question is not whether I will remove the monument. It's not a question of whether I will disobey or obey a court order. The real question is whether or not I will deny the God that created us and endowed us with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Tomorrow, August 15, I am filing with the United States Supreme Court a writ of prohibition and mandamus directing Judge Thompson to stop this wrongful interference with state government. I will, in the very near future, file a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court to preserve our inalienable rights as a state and nation to acknowledge God.

Not only will Judge Thompson be served with this petition for writ of prohibition, but also all state officials who have been served with notice of his injunction will be served as well. I intend to uphold my oath to the Constitution of the United States as well as the constitution of the state of Alabama.

It yet remains to be seen what other state officials will do who have been served in the face of this abuse of power for each of them has also taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I have maintained the rule of law. I have been true to the oath of my office. I can do no more and I will do no less, so help me God.


PHILLIPS: Wow! Powerful words from Chief Justice Ray Moore, obviously receiving a strong ovation there from those he addressed.

You heard it from him. He will not remove the monument of the Ten Commandments out of the state judicial building there in Alabama. He says that this issue or this controversy has not been around the Ten Commandments, that he will not allow anyone to give up the right to recognize God. This is not an issue of separation of church and state. He will not separate God and government. This was abuse of power, he felt, and he will not participate in a wrongful interference with state government.

There you have it from Alabama's Chief Justice Ray Moore. The monument stays in the courthouse.


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