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Ten Commandments in Courthouse Defended

Monument should stay in state building because God is the 'source of law and liberty,' lawyer says.

June 05, 2003|From Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A lawyer for Alabama's chief justice told an appeals court Wednesday that the Ten Commandments should remain in the state Supreme Court building because God is the "source of law and liberty."

During a hearing, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals closely questioned the attorney, Herb Titus, as he argued against a judge's order that the commandments be removed.

Titus said the Ten Commandments are the basis for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and thus should be permitted to stay.

"God is officially acknowledged as the source of law and liberty.... This monument is part of that unbroken history," he said.

Two years ago, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore had the 5,200-pound granite monument featuring the Ten Commandments installed in the state Judicial Building one night.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Alabama attorneys who claimed the monument violated their constitutional rights.

A federal judge ruled that the monument must be removed from the rotunda because it promotes religion in a government building, violating the constitutional separation of church and state. Moore appealed.

"Government cannot take sides in religious matters," Ayesha Khan, one of the lawyers who sued, said after the hearing. "Religion is too personal and too sacred and too holy to be used as a tool by the government."

The appellate judges questioned whether she and other plaintiffs had standing to sue because they had to show they suffered injury from the monument's placement in the courthouse.

Moore told reporters outside court that if he loses the case, every mention of God could be stripped from public view.

"People had better wake up about what's happening in our country because a few lawyers are offended," he said.

The judges could take months to rule, and both sides plan appeals if they lose.

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