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Discussion Of Alabama Supreme Court Justice's Decision To Not Remove Monument

Aired August 21, 2003 - 20:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF JUSTICE ROY MOORE, ALABAMA SUPREME COURT: I have been ordered to do something I cannot do. And that is violate my conscience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.

MOORE: I hear others talk of a rule of law. If the rule of law means to do everything a judge tells you to do, we would still have slavery in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: That was Alabama state supreme court justice Roy Moore emphatically saying that he will not take down a granite monument containing the 10 Commandments. At this hour, it still sits inside Alabama's state judicial center, even though a court-ordered deadline for its removal has come and gone, or will come and go by midnight.

Joining me now from Montgomery is Alabama attorney general Bill Pryor. Thank you very much for joining us.

BILL PRYOR, ALABAMA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Happy to be with you.

ZAHN: First of all, do you think the chief justice is out of line here?

PRYOR: Well, I think that the appropriate response was the response of the supreme court of Alabama. The eight associate justice of our supreme court today entered an order requiring the building manager of the state judicial building to remove the monument and comply with the injunction entered by the federal court.

ZAHN: And let me take that one step further. Then you're saying that the state really needs to comply, that the chief justice needs to comply and this had got to go?

PRYOR: At the end of the day, we are all bound by the rule of law. That means no person is above the law, that after the arguments are made in court and the court rules, whether we agree with the ruling or not, we all have an obligation to respect the ruling and to follow the order of the court. And if we believe that the law needs to be changed after the court rules, there are mechanisms for doing so. But one of them is not to defy a court order. ZAHN: Do you think the monument will be gone by the time you get up tomorrow morning?

PRYOR: Well, the court ruled that the monument has to be removed as soon as practicable. This is a 5,200-some-odd-pound granite monument. It will take the judicial building manager some time to get it done. I think that it's going to be very soon, but I would not want to speculate on exactly when it will occur.

ZAHN: Well, let's talk about the consequences of not having it moved. U.S. district judge Myron Thompson (ph) has said he may fine the state to the tune of $5,000 a day if the order is not complied with. How do various constituents in your state feel about that? Is that something they're happy to pay for?

PRYOR: Well, there's no doubt that many of us believe that we have a duty to respect the orders of the courts, even though many, many Alabamians, myself included, believe that it is appropriate to display the 10 Commandments in a courtroom. After all the Supreme Court of the United States has many depictions of the 10 Commandments in its courtroom. But no one, I think, no one else, really, in state government wants these fines to be imposed. The governor issued an emphatic statement about that today, and the supreme court of Alabama, the eight justices who ruled today, made it very clear that they did not want the state to be fined and the taxpayers to have to pay those fines.

ZAHN: So -- so once again, I want to understand that because I know your personal view is sort of at odds with how you feel, as someone who needs to follow law here. You do not see the display of the 10 Commandments as an unconstitutional promotion of religion.

PRYOR: I believe the 10 Commandments are the cornerstone of our legal heritage, that it is appropriate to display them in a courthouse. The Supreme Court of the United States has them on display in several different depictions. But I believe very strongly that we all have a duty to uphold the rule of law. And after the arguments are made in a court of law and both sides have been heard and all appeals have run and a court -- the courts have finally ruled, we have to respect the orders of the courts and follow them.

Now, if we want to change the law, we can do so, but the answer is not to defy a court order.

ZAHN: Alabama attorney general Bill Pryor, thanks so much for being with us tonight. And we're going to give our audience a peek at what is going on outside Alabama state judicial center now, with people gathering, waiting to see what might transpire later tonight or tomorrow, when it's possible to move this thing, if it ends up being moved. We will keep you posted.

We're going to move on now. Two decades after she went to prison in connection with a deadly robbery, a prominent 1960s radical is about to go free. Coming up, the story of Kathy Boudin and an exclusive interview with her son. And a little bit later on: More explicit details of the allegations against Kobe Bryant may soon be in the public eye. The latest on the case when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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