Alabama
9:51 am
Fri November 14, 2003

Chief Justice Stripped of Office

Montgomery, AL – The nine judges of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary entered their Montgomery courtroom shortly before 11:30 Thursday morning. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore sat and listened as Judiciary Chief Judge William C- Thompson delivered the court's ruling.

"All of the members of this court, after serious consideration of the evidence and testimony presented as this trial, find by clear and convincing evidence that Roy S. Moore, while in his role of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, did willfully and publicly defy a federal court order directed to him. Finding no other viable alternatives, this court hereby orders that Roy S. Moore be removed from his position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama. This court is now adjourned."

Moments later outside the courtroom, Moore said he expected the decision. He blasted the Alabama Court of the Judiciary for conducting what he called secret proceedings to oust him from office.

"No, we were not surprised at the verdict. We knew that this, there was something up in this trial when all our motions were denied, when it was held excluding the media from the viewing of the area. We knew that they did not want anyone to know what was going on inside the building, and I was not really surprised at this verdict, no."

Moore maintains the issue is not about his refusal to obey a federal court order. Instead, he says it's about his right -- and everyone else's -- to recognize God.

"This case is about whether or not we as a state can acknowledge God. The federal courts have said no, and now the Court of the Judiciary, in secret, has said that I will be removed from office because I would continue to acknowledge God."

"I think Justice Moore has always twisted the case to allow him to use it to his political advantage."

Ayesha Kahn, legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"Nobody has ever said that he can't acknowledge God in certain fashion or in certain places. It's that he can't use his public position to force his god down other people's throats. That's what's at stake in this case."

Kahn argued against Moore's Ten Commandments monument when the case went to the 11th U-S Circuit Court of Appeals. She says his removal as Chief Justice shows how dangerous it can be to use personal religious beliefs for political leverage. But Moore told a crowd of supporters he would do it all again.

"I have absolutely no regrets. I have done what I was sworn to do."

Moore is Alabama's first chief justice to be removed from office, and he says he will now consider what to do next. He says he has sought guidance from political and religious leaders. Moore also promised to make an announcement next week, which he says could significantly change the course of Alabama and the nation.

For Alabama Public Radio, I'm Butler Cain.