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Alabama's 'Ten Commandments judge' retakes seat on high court

November 07, 2012|By Joseph Serna
  • Roy Moore greets Adam DuPre', 3, of Pike Road, Ala., at his election party in Montgomery, Ala.
Roy Moore greets Adam DuPre', 3, of Pike Road, Ala., at his election… (David Bundy / Associated…)

Alabama’s “Ten Commandments judge” has climbed back to the mountain top.

Handily beating two fellow Republican challengers,  Roy Moore was elected to a six-year term as the state Supreme Court's chief justice, a position from which he was ousted in 2003 for refusing to remove a 5,200-pound granite monument to the commandments from the rotunda of the state Supreme Court’s building.

Moore earned more than 50% of the vote during Tuesday’s election.

“I have no doubt this is vindication for what I stood for,” Moore told supporters during a televised election speech. “Go home with the knowledge that we’ll stand for the acknowledgment of God.”

Moore was a county judge when he came to national prominence in the 1990s for sticking an 18-by-24-inch plaque of the Ten Commandments on his Etowah County courtroom wall.

A federal judge ordered Moore to remove the plaque — citing the separation of church and state — but Moore refused, turning him into a rebellious hero for many Alabama residents.

Moore rode the wave of conservative, Christian support all the way to state Supreme Court, where he was elected chief justice in 2000 with 55% of the vote.

In August 2001, not even a year into his term, Moore had a 4-foot-tall, nearly 3-ton monument to the Ten Commandments installed in the high court's rotunda in the middle of the night. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center sued, arguing the monument amounted to government endorsement of a religion.

A federal judge ordered Moore to have it removed, and the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the ruling. Moore’s associate justices on the state high court sided with the federal judge as well.

Moore was ousted as chief justice in 2003 by Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary for ethics breaches related to his defiance of the court order to remove the monument. The monument was removed from public viewing about a week after Moore was booted from the bench.

Moore made an unsuccessful run for Alabama governor in 2006, losing in the Republican primary to then-incumbent Gov. Bob Riley.

Moore embraced his rebellious past during his campaign to retake the chief justice seat. Campaign signs referred to him as the “Ten Commandments judge,” and his victory party Tuesday night featured a cake shaped like the tablets of the Ten Commandments.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @josephserna

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