After being ousted as Alabama chief justice for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse, Roy Moore vowed to lobby for legislation that would “alter the direction of our country” and didn’t rule out a run for political office.
“I HAVEN’T decided on running for anything yet, I’m just trying to get over this latest episode in my life,” Moore told NBC’s “Today” show after being asked if he’d run for Alabama governor or even for president.
Moore on Thursday said he plans to make an announcement next week that could “alter the direction of our country.” The announcement will concern legislation aimed at federal court rulings like the one by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson that found Moore’s monument unconstitutional, Moore told reporters.
“You will hear from me again when it comes to the right to acknowledge God,” Moore told cheering supporters on Thursday, shortly after a state judicial ethics panel threw him off the bench.
CRITICS SEEK DISBARMENT
Moore’s opponents, meanwhile, announced they would try to prevent Moore from attempting a comeback by running for another seat on the court.
“We intend now to file a complaint with the Alabama State Bar Association asking that Moore be disbarred,” said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the three groups that sued Moore over the monument.
The nine members of the Court of the Judiciary handed out the harshest penalty possible, saying Moore left them with no choice by repeatedly insisting he would never obey a federal judge’s order to move the 2½-ton block of granite from the courthouse rotunda.
“The chief justice placed himself above the law,” said Presiding Judge William Thompson.
The court emphasized that its ruling was not a judgment about the monument itself, stating, “the acknowledgment of God is very much a vital part of the public and private fabric of our country.”
BACKGROUND TO DECISION
Moore spent eight months designing the monument and helped move it into the building in the middle of the night in 2001. He soon became a lightning rod for criticism from civil-liberties activists who said the stone tablets promoted religion in violation of the separation of church and state.
A federal judge ordered the monument removed, and it was finally wheeled away Aug. 27 to a storage room on instructions from Moore’s eight fellow justices.
Moore, 56, had been suspended since August but was allowed to collect his $170,000 annual salary.
Moore’s attorney, former state Supreme Court justice Terry Butts, said attorneys are discussing a possible appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore has 30 days to appeal.
If his removal stands, Gov. Bob Riley will appoint a new chief justice to finish his term, which expires in 2007. Moore could still run for a seat on the court next year, provided he is not disbarred.
Moore did not say if he would seek another public office, but Butts made it clear supporters want him to do so. “I hope his fate will be decided sometime in the future by the voters of this state,” he said.
REACTION TO OUSTER
Jonathan Entin, a professor of law at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, said he views the decision to oust Moore “an astonishing development because it’s been done locally by Alabama officials and Alabama institutions,” rather than federal officials.
Ayesha Khan, an attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of the groups that filed suit against the monument, praised the decision to remove Moore.
“It sends the message of whether you are the common man or the highest judge in the state, you have to obey the law,” Khan said.
Conservative Christian leaders expressed outrage.
“This decision is an insult to all people of faith, who are being told that the public acknowledgment of God is unconstitutional,” said Christian radio talk show host James Dobson.
Frank Raddish, a Washington, D.C. minister who has organized a petition drive asking the Congress to impeach Thompson, was seeking signatures outside the judicial building Thursday and said he would increase his efforts.
“We’re not going to stop,” Raddish said. “Justice Moore didn’t do anything wrong.”
The governor issued a statement saying he was “disappointed and concerned that the federal courts continue to attempt to remove references to God and faith from public arenas. All of us must, however, respect the workings of our legal system and trust that it remains the best in the world.”
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