For visitors to the capital of Alabama, the granite monument of the Ten Commandments is the most popular attraction that isn't there.
In the rotunda of the state Supreme Court building, behind the U.S. and Alabama flags, the floor shows only vague scuff marks where the monument used to sit.
But even in its absence, the Ten Commandments has a presence.
Tourism, according to Willie James, a courthouse marshal, has gone up since the controversy over former Chief Justice Roy Moore's monument became national news this past summer. "Visitors always ask, 'Where are the Ten Commandments? Can we see them?'" James says.
The response is that the 2.5-ton monument is locked away in a room, the private property of Moore, and, under court order, off-limits to the public.
That room, in fact, is through a first-floor lunchroom available only to those with a key pass; then, from the lunchroom, through another door locked to all except people such as James and building manager Graham George Jr., a retired U.S. Army colonel and former Vietnam War battalion commander.
It was George, following court instructions, who presided over the physical removal of the commandments monument on Aug. 27.
"The media was pasted up against the glass," he remembers, referring to the tempered panels rising 30 feet at the front door and 50 feet to each side of it. He pushes his hand against the glass; it has some give. He says that with the crush of people outside who were peering in, he worried the glass might give way.
George had contracted with a mover, who got the monument up off the ground, then rolled it to the storage room, where the door had to be sawed an inch and a half wider to get it through. It sits there now, he says, but not in the dark.
"I keep the lights ...1
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