When a moving crew finally hauled Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument from public view at the Alabama Judicial Building in late August, one angry protester screamed, "Get your hands off our God!" Fortunately, he was a minority of one. His fellow demonstrators urged calm.

Indeed, many pundits' and activists' predictions failed that day. Protesters didn't violently charge in, but prayed peacefully on the courthouse steps. Moore didn't fling himself atop the monument—he wasn't even present.

Neither did God step off his throne, nor references to him suddenly vanish from the public square. When Congress reconvened after its summer break, it did so with a prayer. The Alabama state constitution still "invoke[s] the favor and guidance of Almighty God." Art at the Supreme Court still depicts Moses holding the Ten Commandments.

When U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled the display unconstitutional, he wrote, "The court does not hold that it is improper in all instances to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings; nor does the court hold that the Ten Commandments are not important, if not one of the most important, sources of American law." What was improper, he ruled, was the explicitly religious purpose that the Alabama monument served beyond the inherently religious content of the Decalogue itself.

Both Thompson and Moore agreed that the monument's purpose was religious in nature, and Moore refused to let the debate wander too far from the question of whether the state may, in Thompson's words, "acknowledge the sovereignty of the Judeo-Christian God and attribute to that God our religious freedom." For Moore, this was an opportunity to put the lie to the separation of church and ...

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