'Ten Commandments judge' says monument doesn't endorse religion
By The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. Attorneys for Chief Justice Roy Moore deny claims that his Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building is an endorsement of religion.
Two lawsuits challenging Moore's placement of the monument have been combined before U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson.
In a Dec. 28 response to the suit's allegations, Moore's attorneys said it's "not reasonable" for the 5,280-pound monument to be viewed as endorsing religion.
"The public acknowledgment of God is not religion and in no way runs contrary to the First Amendment," Moore lawyer Stephen Melchior told The Birmingham News in a telephone interview Jan. 8. "God is not religion. Religion has been defined as articles of faith and the forms of worship."
Moore's attorneys denied claims by the plaintiffs that the monument "suggests to all who view it that adherence to a particular religion's creed is a prerequisite or advantage to those seeking justice in Alabama."
The initial suits were filed by the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The SPLC suit last fall, filed on behalf of lawyer Stephen R. Glassroth of Montgomery, said he views Moore's monument as an endorsement of religion by the Alabama judiciary, in violation of his First and 14th amendment rights.
The ACLU suit also contends that the monument is offensive to them and is unconstitutional "in that it has the primary purpose and effect of advancing religion."
Moore's attorneys said the First Amendment's provision that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" doesn't apply to an administrative act of an elected state judicial officer or that officer's actions as the lessee of a state judicial building.
Attorney General Bill Pryor, who said in November that he supports Moore's display of the monument, named attorneys to represent Moore but said they won't be paid with state funds.
Florida televangelist D. James Kennedy has been raising money to pay Moore's attorneys, including using direct mail solicitations. When Moore installed the Ten Commandments monument last summer, he let Kennedy's organization, Coral Ridge Ministries, make the only videotape of the event.
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