(From For the Record, March 8, 1997:) An Alabama judge has not asked for military protection to keep the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. An Associated Press story published March 6 was wrong.
The House threw its support Wednesday behind an Alabama judge who has refused to remove a Ten Commandments plaque from his courtroom and has asked for military protection against those trying to take it down.
The resolution, adopted 295-125, said the Ten Commandments should be permitted in government offices and courthouses because they are “a declaration of fundamental principles that are the cornerstones of a fair and just society.”
The measure, which is not binding and has no direct impact on an outstanding court case, was introduced by freshman Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama on behalf of Judge Roy S. Moore of Etowah County, Ala.
Moore is involved in a two-year dispute over his display of a wood carving of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and his practice of opening court sessions with prayer.
The American Civil Liberties Union argued in the lawsuit that Moore’s courtroom religious practices violated the Constitution’s required separation of church and state. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price agreed, ordering Moore last year to halt the court prayers. Price later ordered Moore to remove the plaque as well.
The Alabama Supreme Court has stayed Price’s ruling while it decides Moore’s appeal.
Aderholt, in debate Tuesday, said: “To exclude a display of the Ten Commandments because it suggests an establishment of religion is not consistent with our nation’s heritage, yet alone common sense.”
But opponents of the measure said Congress had no right to intervene in a matter best left to the courts and churches and that the House should be dealing with more substantive issues.
“It baffles me” why Republicans brought up the matter, said Democratic leader Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri. “If we are going to get into the business of advising every court in the country in how they ought to decide every case, we’re going to be awfully busy and my reading of the Constitution indicates to me that’s not our job.”