Deep in the heart of Dixie, Judge Roy Moore is a states-rights fist looking for a federal fight. In the government-battling tradition of the Confederacy and of former Alabama governor George Wallace, Moore is defying first one judge and then another over separation of church and state.
"I admire his courage," says Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. "I think Judge Moore may be starting a much overdue debate about the ongoing hostility toward the free exercise of religion."
In a case that pits an Alabama district judge against the American Civil Liberties Union over the wall between church and state, Moore has defied the order of State District Judge Charles Price of Montgomery to remove a homemade plaque of the Ten Commandments from a wall of his courtroom.
Both sides have promised to fight to the end, and the case has landmark potential at the U.S. Supreme Court level. For good or bad, the case in the small northeast Alabama town of Gadsden may become as pivotal to the debate over the roles of church and state as the 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision that outlawed organized, sponsored prayer in schools.
To add further defiance to his actions, Moore is also continuing his tradition of allowing local pastors to open his Etowah County Circuit Court day with prayer, even after being ordered by Price to stop. Moore has appealed.
Moore mounted the national stage more than a year ago with his Ten Commandments stance, and he defied another judge last month. U.S. District Judge Ira A. Dement issued an order restricting vocal prayers in Alabama public-school classrooms and at commencement exercises. Moore responded with a temporary restraining order of his own to keep Dement's "unconstitutional abuse of ...1