Judge Rejects Return of Ten Commandments Marker
Thu September 4, 2003 05:24 PM ET

By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday rejected a bid by supporters
of embattled Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore to have a controversial monument
inscribed with the Ten Commandments returned to public view in the state courthouse.

The 5,000-pound granite marker was removed from the judicial building in Montgomery
last week to comply with an order from a federal court, which had ruled that it violated
the constitutional separation of church and state.

Thousands of Christians in the Bible-Belt state had protested, demanding that the marker
be kept in place.

"The empty space of nothingness in the rotunda of the judicial building is neither an
endorsement of non-theistic belief nor a sign of disrespect for Christianity or any other
religion," U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson said in his ruling on Thursday.

The ruling came one week after a California lawyer filed a lawsuit in a federal court in
Alabama, charging that authorities had discriminated against Christians by removing the monument.

Patrick Mahoney, the director of the Christian Defense Coalition and one of those who protested
in Montgomery against the monument's removal, vowed to appeal Thompson's latest ruling to the 
11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Bearing two tablets inscribed with the commandments that Jews and Christians believe were passed
from God to Moses, the stone marker was placed in the building by Moore and a small group of
followers in July 2001.

After ruling it unconstitutional last year, Thompson gave the defiant Moore until Aug. 20, 2003
to remove the monument.

Moore, a Christian who was easily elected as Alabama's chief justice in 2000, was suspended after
refusing the order. He has been accused of violating judicial ethics.

"We believe there is no appropriate place to post the Ten Commandments on government property,"
Larry Darby, a spokesman for the American Atheists group, said shortly after the ruling on Thursday.

Displays of the Ten Commandments in public buildings have frequently been challenged in the 
United States over the interpretation of the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech.