God Must Be Acknowledged
Roy Moore Returns to Office as Alabama’s Chief Justice
It’s not all bad news, fellow Americans.
Last Friday was a day for rejoicing in our nation, as Roy Moore reclaimed his position as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court—a post he was forcibly removed from nine years ago because he refused to disavow God in his official capacity as Alabama’s highest-elected judge.
After taking the oath of office at a packed-out ceremony in Montgomery, the newly-installed Chief Justice boldly reaffirmed the view that cost him his office before: “It was right then to acknowledge God. And it will continue to be so.”
Huzzahs are now welcome—Chief Justice Moore has returned!
Remembering the Showdown:
“The Monument Still Stands in Alabama”
The Chief’s road to this point has been an eventful one. Less than a decade ago, America’s attention was fixed on a dramatic stand-off in Montgomery, as Alabama’s presiding Chief Justice refused to obey a federal court order which demanded that he remove the Ten Commandments monument which he had installed in the State Judicial Building two years previously. As Americans from coast to coast tuned into their radios in late August of 2003, legendary newsman Paul Harvey, with crackling and characteristic staccato, opened his daily commentary with these pointed words: “The monument still stands in Alabama.”
The air was electric during this epic showdown, as Chief Justice Moore refused to budge in upholding his public oath of office as well as his personal commitment to honor God.
What would become of the Chief and the Ten Commandments monument he strove to defend? All waited with anticipation as the great drama unfolded.
The Rise of America’s “Ten Commandments Judge”
This was not Moore’s first battle over the display of the Ten Commandments on state property. His initial foray into this controversy began in late 1992 when he was appointed as Circuit Judge for Etowah County in Alabama. Upon assuming office, Judge Moore hung a personally hand-carved wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments behind his bench in the Etowah County courthouse. In May of 1995, the ACLU filed a lawsuit to challenge this public display of God’s law. The suit eventually led Alabama Circuit Judge Charles Price to order the Ten Commandments plaque to be removed from the courtroom within ten days of his ruling, which was issued on February 10, 1997.
Judge Moore refused to comply, and he was backed up with unflinching vigor by Alabama Gov. Fob James, who explained their rationale of resistance, “If we accept all judges’ orders, we don’t have a government of law; we have a government of men.” Gov. James put Judge Price on notice of the stakes: “Try to take the Ten Commandments out of this courtroom . . . and you’ll be staring down the barrel of a few dozen M-16s.”
As the standoff escalated, thousands gathered in Montgomery on April 12, 1997, to lend their support to Judge Moore.
Having received the case on appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed it on technical grounds the following January. While the merits of the case went unanswered, the court’s ruling effectively quashed Judge Price’s order, and the Ten Commandments plaque remained on display in the Etowah County courtroom.
The “Ten Commandments Judge” had stood by his convictions and won.
Roy Moore Elected as Chief Justice:
The Foundation for Moral Law Affirmed
This courageous stand by Judge Moore gained him wide admiration by millions in his home state and beyond, and in the year 2000, he ran for the post of Chief Justice of the State of Alabama. One of his key campaign promises was that, if elected, he would install a Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the Alabama State Judicial Building to acknowledge the God of the Bible as the Supreme Lawgiver and foundational source of our nation’s law.
Judge Moore won the election, and once taking office as Alabama’s Chief Justice, he made good on his commitment and erected a 5300-lb., granite Ten Commandments monument in the judicial building on July 31, 2001. The following day, he declared this in a public unveiling ceremony:
Today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded. . . . May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land.
The Monument Rejected:
A Federal Judge Defies God’s Sovereignty
This action by Chief Justice Moore prompted numerous liberal activist groups—including the ACLU of Alabama, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Southern Poverty Law Center—to file suit in Federal District Court, urging that the monument be removed because it “sends a message to all who enter the State Judicial Building that the government encourages and endorses the practice of religion in general and Judeo-Christianity in particular.”
Acceding to the liberal arguments of the Left, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ordered the monument’s removal in a November 18, 2002 ruling. In his decision, Judge Thompson did not mince words about the heart of the matter, denying that the sovereignty of the Christian God should be publically upheld and proclaimed by a state court:
[Chief Justice Moore] installed a two-and-a-half ton monument in the most prominent place in a government building, managed with dollars from all state taxpayers, with the specific purpose and effect of establishing a permanent recognition of the “sovereignty of God,” the Judeo-Christian God, over all citizens in this country, regardless of each taxpaying citizen’s individual personal beliefs or lack thereof. . . .
[W]hile the Chief Justice is free to keep whatever religious beliefs he chooses, the state may not acknowledge the sovereignty of the Judeo-Christian God and attribute to that God our religious freedom.
Upon appeal, a temporary stay of Judge Thompson’s order was secured, yet this stay was lifted on August 5, 2003, when the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Thompson’s ruling.
Chief Justice Moore was given until August 20 to remove the monument. The Chief refused to capitulate and explained why he was duty-bound to resist this judicial tyranny:
To deny God would be to recognize man as sovereign and would be a violation of the first commandment [Exodus 20:3] as well as the First Amendment. Judge Thompson’s order, running counter to the Supreme Judge of the World, [is] null and void; disobedience [is] a duty, not a crime.
The Ten Commandments Rally:
Thousands Gather to Support the Chief
On August 16, more than two thousand supporters from across America gathered in Alabama’s capital city to show their solidarity for the Chief’s heroic stand. The Ten Commandments Rally included such speakers as Pastor Jerry Falwell, Conservative Caucus founder Howard Phillips, U.S. Ambassador Alan Keyes, and Pastor Rick Scarborough who helped to organize the event. A large delegation from Vision Forum Ministries made the trip to Montgomery for the rally, and in the momentous days that followed, Vision Forum President Doug Phillips stood beside the Chief in Alabama as a personal counselor and aid-de-camp during his weighty hour of trial.
Following various speeches, Chief Justice Moore made his way down the Capitol steps to address the crowd. “Let’s get this straight,” he thundered, “It’s not about me. I will pass away, as every politician and pastor will, but the law of God will remain forever.”
He then explained the fundamental issue at stake with his stand-off against the federal judiciary:
This case is not about a monument and not about politics. It’s about the acknowledgement of God. The judge himself said in closing arguments before the court that the issue is: ‘Can the state acknowledge God?’ . . . Indeed, we must acknowledge God because our constitution says our justice system is established upon God. For him to say that I can’t say who God is is to disestablish the justice system of this state.
Tossing the Shroud: God’s Truth Must Not Be Hidden
The showdown intensified, dominating news headlines, with reporters from across the world descending on Montgomery to cover the story. Chief Justice Moore’s interview schedule was a blur, as he appeared on scores of national radio and television outlets, explaining why he must acknowledge God to uphold his oath of office.
Despite enormous pressure to compromise, the Chief stood firm. August 20, 2003 came and went, and the monument remained unmoved and undesecrated.
Yet reproach was not long in coming. When Chief Justice Moore left town for a few hours the next morning to attend a family funeral, Associate Justice Gorman Houston and other justices of the Alabama Supreme Court took steps to cover the monument with a curtain without consulting the Chief—who legally speaking, was the primary custodian of the building—a move which incensed him when he learned of it.
Demanding the shroud be stripped (an order Houston complied with), the Chief Justice returned to Montgomery in haste and held a historic press conference in which he proclaimed these stirring words to a watching world:
The people of this state elected me as Chief Justice to uphold our Constitution which established our justice system “invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God.”
To do my duty, I must acknowledge God. That is what this case is about. . . .
Before the Federal District Court here in Montgomery sets a bust of the Greek goddess Themis. You won’t find federal authorities scurrying around to conceal that bust behind a screen. And neither should we hide the truth any longer. I will not violate my oath, I cannot forsake my conscience, I will not neglect my duty, and I will never deny the God upon Whom our laws and country depend.
The Monument Removed, the Chief “Suspended”
The following afternoon, the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) filed a complaint against Chief Justice Moore with the Court of the Judiciary (COJ) which, in effect, disqualified him from acting as judge until the matter was resolved. While it was not a legal “suspension,” the practical effect was the same; and on August 27—with the Chief not at the helm—the monument was removed from the building’s rotunda and placed into a locked storage closest at the direction of the presiding justices of the court who acquiesced in the face of a $5,000-a-day fine which Judge Myron Thompson had stipulated in his ruling.
Turncoat Pryor: A Betrayal of Interposition
With the monument removed, Alabama Attorney General William Pryor—who was appointed to his position in 1997 by Gov. Fob James under the condition that he would defend Judge Moore during his earlier fight to display the Ten Commandments—showed his true colors, declaring Chief Justice Moore to be “unrepentant” and thus unfit to continue serving at his post.
Pryor’s turncoat move was stunning in light of his past defense not only of the right to display the Ten Commandments in a public building, but of the right of states to interpose against federal tyranny—a principle found in Scripture which has a long legal tradition that our nation’s founders embraced.
Upon observing Attorney General Pryor’s duplicity, former Gov. James called him on the carpet for it in a public affidavit. James stated in part:
I talked with Bill Pryor about [interposition] when I was considering him for the job of Alabama Attorney-General. He impressed me with his knowledge of these things and provided me with some legal papers on “non-acquiescence” that he was responsible for while at the Tulane Law School. I told Bill about my view that constitutional officials needed to challenge the Supreme Court. For instance, for twenty years my view has been that a Governor should refuse to allow enforcement of a patently unconstitutional court order. . . . Bill had indicated nothing but his wholehearted support of my position on these issues at the time. . . . [and his current] actions . . . are utterly contrary to the political and legal convictions he expressed to me. Had he expressed his present view, I would not have found him qualified to be Attorney-General of Alabama. The main reason Pryor was appointed was his understanding and the ability to express that understanding well that a public official’s highest duty was to the Constitution of the United States and not to the Supreme Court or any other entity.
An Unprecedented American Trial:
“Will You Continue to Acknowledge God?”
Despite these previous commitments as well as numerous conflicts of interest, Attorney General Pryor zealously assumed the role of prosecutor during the Chief’s historic trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. The on-the-record dialogue between the two men when Chief Justice Moore was on the witness stand was remarkable and unprecedented in the life of our nation. Never before on U.S. soil had an elected public official been prosecuted because he refused to deny God in his capacity as a public servant. Here is a partial transcript of Pryor and Moore’s interchange during the trial, held on November 12, 2003:
Attorney General Pryor: Mr. Chief Justice . . . your understanding is that the federal court ordered that you could not acknowledge God; isn’t that right?
Chief Justice Moore: Yes.
Attorney General Pryor: And if you resume your duties as Chief Justice after this proceeding, you will continue to acknowledge God as you have testified that you would today?
Chief Justice Moore: That’s right.
Attorney General Pryor: No matter what any official says?
Chief Justice Moore: Absolutely. Without—let me clarify that. Without an acknowledgement of God, I cannot do my duties. I must acknowledge God. It says so in the constitution of Alabama. It says so in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It says so in everything I have read. So. . .
Attorney General Pryor: The only point I’m trying to clarify, Mr. Chief Justice, is not why, but only that, in fact, if you do resume your duties as Chief Justice, you will continue to do that [acknowledge God] without regard to what any other official says; isn’t that right?
Chief Justice Moore: Well, I’ll do the same thing this court did with starting a prayer—that’s an acknowledgement of God. Now, we did the same say thing that justices do when they place their hand on the Bible and say, “So help me God.” It’s an acknowledgement of God. The Alabama Supreme Court opened with, “God save the State and this Honorable Court.” It’s an acknowledgement of God. In my opinion, which I have written many opinions, acknowledging God is the source—a moral source of law. I think you must.
This was not an event from Ancient Babylon, as when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood before the tyrant Nebuchadnezzar. This interchange did not occur in Ancient Rome, as when persecuted Christians were brought before an Imperial tribunal of the Caesars. This trial happened in the United States of America less than a decade ago, and it resulted in the highest elected judicial official in the State of Alabama being ousted from his office as Chief Justice for one simple reason: He would not cease from acknowledging Almighty God as the foundation of our nation’s law.
Following his removal, the former Chief Justice put his years-long fight to honor God and keep his oath as a judge in perspective:
God is sovereign and shall remain so despite what the Supreme Court and the federal . . . courts of this land say. I have kept my oath and my promise to the people of the state of Alabama. I have obeyed the rule of law by not following the unlawful dictates of man.
A Stunning Reversal: Chief Justice Moore Returns
Yet this is not the end of the story. In late 2011, the former Chief Justice of Alabama announced his intention to seek the very office that he had been tossed out of in 2003 for refusing to deny God. In a stunning reversal, Roy Moore was reelected to his old post last November 6.
When he learned of his victory, Moore told a gathering of supporters on election night, “I have no doubt this is a vindication. . . . Go home with the knowledge that we are going to stand for the acknowledgment of God.”
Last Friday, Chief Justice Moore was sworn into office in the very same room where he was tried and “convicted” a decade ago. So many people sought to be there for the ceremony that an overflow room was set up with a closed-circuit television so that those who couldn’t be in the court chamber might view the proceeding.
After taking his oath on the Bible, the Chief pointed the audience to it as our nation’s source of law and noted that Deuteronomy 1:16-17 gives the foundation of our judicial system. “We’ve got to remember that most of what we do in court comes from some Scripture or is backed by Scripture,” he stated.
While the Ten Commandments Monument is gone from the rotunda of the judicial building, the State of Alabama once again has a Chief Justice who will dare to publically acknowledge “the God upon Whom our laws and country depend.”
Amid much darkness and apostasy in our land, a bright light shines in Montgomery.
Let us rejoice—Chief Justice Moore has returned!
And may our Sovereign God be pleased to give us more such faithful judges, as the Prophet Isaiah spoke:
And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, “The city of righteousness, the faithful city.” Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. (Isaiah 1:26-27)
 In addition to my personal archives of this controversy, a primary source for much of this article is: Roy Moore, So Help Me God: The Ten Commandments, and the Battle for Religious Freedom (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 2005).
 As quoted in the New York Times, National Report, February 13, 1997, “Judge Faces Deadline on Religious Display.”
 As quoted in WORLD Magazine, February 22, 1997, Jay Grelan, “Alabama Governor Fob James: leader of the resistance: The upcoming clash with judicial tyranny.”
 Glassroth v. Moore (M.C. Ala. 2002).
 So Help Me God, p. 209.
 Ibid., quote featured on front inside flap of book jacket.
 Alabama Live, November 6, 2012, Kim Chandler, “Roy Moore wins chief justice race.”
 Alabama Live, January 11, 2013, Mike Cason, “Ten Commandment judge returns: Roy Moore sworn in as Alabama’s chief justice.”