The Alabama circuit judge famous for posting the Ten Commandments in his courtroom is one step closer to the state's highest court. And he promises to make a place for the Decalogue in the state Supreme Court if he is elected chief justice. Judge Roy S. Moore, who serves a circuit in northeast Alabama, defeated three other judges June 6 to become the Republican nominee for state Supreme Court chief justice. Moore won 56 percent of the primary vote. His strongest challenger, state Supreme Court Associate Harold See, attracted 29 percent of the vote, even though he outspent Moore 3-to-1. The two other candidates received 8 and 7 percent. Moore faces Democrat Sharon Yates, a Court of Civil Appeals judge, in the November election. Observers give Yates little chance of overcoming Moore's popularity in a state well-known for its religious conservatives. Moore, 53, was thrust into the national spotlight five years ago when he refused to remove a hand-carved Ten Commandments plaque from his courtroom wall. A local atheist group, backed by the Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, sued to have Moore remove the plaque, but a federal judge ruled the plaintiffs had no standing in the case. Moore has since received both praise and scorn for his actions. After his primary victory, Moore reiterated his right as a government official to acknowledge God.
"What I stand for is the proper interpretation of the law as the Founding Fathers intended," he says. "The acknowledgment of God was never prohibited by the First Amendment."
John Giles, president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, says many Alabamians could identify with Moore and his strong religious convictions. The group's exit polls found that "81 percent of Alabamians are conservative or moderate in their philosophies," Giles says, "and 70 percent of our people go to church at least once a month. So it's an economic, social, and moral conservative state, and Judge Moore benefited from that."William Stewart, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama, says Moore's victory was another triumph for the conservative religious vote in Alabama. The same voting group largely influenced the October 1999 defeat of a statewide lottery referendum."I would predict there's a close correlation between those who voted for Moore and against the lottery," Stewart says.Other courts have required removing Ten Commandments displays. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and a U.S. District Court upheld judicial orders to remove displays of the Ten Commandments from a public school and two county courthouses in Kentucky.
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