Istook Press Release, Letter
Rep. Ernest J. Istook, Jr.,
Lauds Governor Fob James
For Threatening Americans
compiled by Cliff Walker
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 6, 1997
Contact: Kristy Khachigian
Istook Commends Alabama
Governor in Effort
to Protect Prayer and
Says Issue Demonstrates Need
for Constitutional Amendment
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) today commended Governor Fob James of Alabama for his efforts to protect prayer and displays of the Ten Commandments in public settings. In a letter to Governor James, Istook stated, "I read about the ACLU's challenge to prayer and the Ten Commandments in Alabama's courtrooms. My heart and prayers are with you, to assure that our rights to pray and to acknowledge our religious heritage are not taken away when we step onto public property. I commend you and so many other Alabamans for having the courage of your convictions."
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) challenged Circuit Judge Roy Moore's use of prayer at the start of court sessions and a display of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. A circuit court judge ruled November 22 that Moore must end the prayers, but that he may still display the Ten Commandments. Judge Moore says he will not give in. Governor James backed Moore in a speech Wednesday at the Southern Baptists' annual Legislative Prayer Luncheon.
Istook said the Alabama case demonstrates the need for a religious freedom amendment in order to protect religious rights. Last Congress more than 100 House members sponsored a religious liberties amendment that would protect acknowledgments of religious heritage in public places, as well as allow voluntary prayer in public schools. A similar amendment will be introduced this Congress.
"With many others, I have been working on the necessary
amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to end the whittling away of our religious
liberties, and to restore our proper freedoms. This should be the year
when the long-delayed vote will occur in the Congress. The language we
submit will address the situation in Alabama courtrooms. Not only would
it make voluntary prayer possible again in public schools, but will also
address efforts to censor the Ten Commandments and other religious acknowledgments
in public settings."
February 6, 1997
The Honorable Fob James
Governor of Alabama
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, Alabama 36130
I read about the ACLU's challenge to prayer and the Ten Commandments in Alabama's courtrooms. My heart and prayers are with you, to assure that our rights to pray and to acknowledge our religious heritage are not taken away when we step onto public property.
I commend you and so many other Alabamans for having the courage of your convictions.
With many others, I have been working on the necessary amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to end the whittling away of our religious liberties, and to restore our proper freedoms. This should be the year when the long-delayed vote will occur in the Congress. The language we submit will address the situation in Alabama courtrooms. Not only would it make voluntary prayer possible again in public schools, but will also address efforts to censor the Ten Commandments and other religious acknowledgments in public settings.
Your Alabama Congressional delegation has provided much support in the past, and I look forward to working closely this year with them, and with you, to preserve and to protect our religious liberties.
Very truly yours,
Ernest J. Istook, Jr.
Member of Congress cc: Alabama Congressional Delegation
State Supreme Court Issues Stay On Order To Stop Courtroom Prayer
Rep. Istook Thumbs A Ride
On The Alabama Prayer Bandwagon
by Conrad Goeringer with Larry Mundinger
from AANEWS by American Atheists
February 9, 1997
The efforts of Alabama Governor Fob James to keep prayer and other religious ritual in at least state court chamber despite court orders to end the practice, picked up support this weekend from a U.S. Congressman. Rep. Ernest J. Istook (R.-Okla.) has announced his support for the controversial Governor, who has vowed to use the national guard, state police and even the University of Alabama football team to keep prayer in government functions, and specifically the courtroom of Etowah Circuit Judge Roy Moore.
Moore, who opens judicial proceedings with a Christian prayer and posts a copy of the Ten Commandments in his chambers, has been the target of a lawsuit challenging the practices as a violation of state-church separation. Another Circuit Judge, Charles Price, issued a "cease and desist" ruling on the prayer, but said that Moore could continue posting the Decalogue.
And last week, James began attracting national media attention when he declared that he was intent on using state military and law enforcement agencies to keep the prayer; he also challenged President Clinton to federalize the Alabama guard, a step reminiscent of what President Kennedy had to do when former Governor George Wallace tried to keep segregation a policy in the state's public schools and university system.
On Friday, James told a Baptist gathering that "The only way those Ten Commandments and prayer would be stripped from that courtroom is with the force of arms."
Istook is a major congressional supporter of the Christian Coalition, and has appeared at the group's functions. In 1994, his office began framing a "Religious Equality Amendment" which called for greater religious involvement in public institutions, including prayer in schools. The Istook proposal is one of two pieces of legislation now being promoted by various religious group groups; the other is a "Religious Freedom Amendment" drafted by Rep. Dick Armey of Texas. There are subtle differences between the two bills, but both call for school prayer and, say critics, pose a threat to state-church separation.
Many of James's critics say that the governor is a demagogue who is "milking" the school prayer issue for political gain, and hopes to ignite a popular movement in support of the prayer amendment. Istook's sudden involvement in the Alabama debacle gives credence to this scenario. According to the Huntsville (Alabama) Times, "In a letter to James, Istook said he and others are working on a constitutional amendment that would allow for such religious acknowledgment in public." James also told a meeting on Thursday that the courtroom prayer case "may take years -- even beyond his own term in office -- before reaching a final resolution.
Alabama Atheist Larry Mundinger reports other developments:
Judges Battle Over
Display of Ten Commandments
by Bill Poovey
Associated Press Writer, Montgomery, Alabama
February 28, 1997
Alabama's attorney general says he will ask the state Supreme Court to intervene in a dispute over a Ten Commandments display behind the bench of a Gadsden courtroom. Attorney General Bill Pryor and Gov. Fob James on Monday again closed ranks with Etowah Circuit Judge Roy Moore in fighting an order to change the Ten Commandments display and discontinue prayers to open court sessions.
A Montgomery circuit judge, Charles Price, issued an order Monday that said the display would have to be changed so not to be "purely religious." With James again threatening to use the National Guard or state troopers if necessary to defend the Ten Commandments display, Pryor verbally assailed the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama. Pryor, like James a Republican, said it was astounding that a circuit judge in Montgomery was being asked to "redecorate" a courtroom in Gadsden. "That's the triviality that ACLU litigation has brought us to," Pryor said, although he also referred to the dispute as potentially rocking the foundations of the judiciary. An ACLU attorney described Price's ruling as "a major victory for the Constitution and the rule of law."
"We fervently hope that Judge Moore and his defenders will choose to comply with the court's orders and obey the rule of law," said ACLU attorney James Tucker. Price, who traveled to Gadsden to view the display for himself last week, said the placement of the wooden Ten Commandments plaque was unacceptable. Moore "has unequivocally stated that the plaques are not in the courtroom for a historical, judicial or educational purpose, but rather, and clearly to promote religion," wrote Price, who previously said the plaque could remain. Price said the plaques violate both the U.S. and Alabama constitutions, but he offered a compromise, citing a federal precedent:
Moore can add nonreligious items to create a larger display incorporating the Ten Commandments. Otherwise, the plaques must come down, he said. The Alabama state seal, a framed document and a portrait already hang in Moore's courtroom along with the plaque, which the judge made himself. Price gave Moore 10 days to comply. Pryor said he was hopeful his appeal to the state Supreme Court would put an end to the dispute. A supporter of Moore, Dean Young, said the proposed modification was unacceptable to the judge.
Young said nothing would be changed. "I think this shows poor judging on Judge Price's behalf," said Young, executive director of the Christian Family Association. James vowed last week to use all the power of his office to maintain the judge's ability to practice his religious beliefs in the courtroom. James, speaking on his weekly radio program Monday afternoon, said he was hopeful that Price's order would be overturned. "I do not anticipate that it will be upheld," he said. James again vowed to "use the National Guard and state troopers to prevent the removal." But the governor has said he expects the case to be on appeal for years, possibly beyond the end of his term in 1998. Price's decision was in response to a request for rehearing by the ACLU, which initially challenged the Ten Commandments display and Moore's practices of opening court sessions with prayer. Price earlier ordered Moore to stop opening court sessions with prayers, a decision Moore is appealing to the state Supreme Court. The justices last week allowed the prayers to continue while they decide the case.
Etowah County Sheriff James L. Hayes opened a jury session Monday with prayer at the request of Circuit Judge William Rhea. Price originally ruled the carving was not an unlawful promotion of religion, but he changed his mind after visiting the courtroom. Price's order noted he had been deluged with calls and letters from people urging him to "save the Ten Commandments," but he wrote the Old Testament laws "are not in peril." "They may be displayed in every church, synagogue, temple, mosque, home and storefront. They may be displayed in cars, on lawns and in corporate boardrooms," he said. "Where this precious gift cannot and should not be displayed ... is on government property." The attorney general said that bigger than the judge's constitutional right to freedom of expression is the issue of "whether any acknowledgment of God by government is unconstitutional." Pryor described the Ten Commandments as the "cornerstone of law of western civilization."
Alabama Showdown --
Ruling: Courtroom Prayer, Decalogue Must Go
A Judge Rules That
Decalogue Is A Religious,
Not Historical Statement
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
February 13, 1997
For Etowah County Judge Roy Moore and Alabama Governor Fob James, it's shaping up as a battle over state's rights -- the power of the federal government to enforce state-church separation guidelines concerning prayer and other religious sentiments in public venues, including courthouses versus a long-term custom.
But for plaintiffs and attorneys, it's a more fundamental issue. They insist that Judge Moore's practice of beginning judicial proceedings with a Christian prayer, or seeing the hand-carved Ten Commandments plaque that sits over the judge's right shoulder near the Great Seal of Alabama clearly violates their First Amendment rights, and even prejudices trial business.
Another Judge, Charles Price agrees. In response to a suit litigated by the American Civil Liberties Union, Price ruled last November that Moore had to "cease and desist" the prayer recitation, but could keep the Decalogue plaque. That decision prompted frenzied rallies by religious groups defending Moore and the practice of public religiosity; and then Governor Fob James hopped on the prayer bandwagon, threatening to call out the national guard, state police and even the University of Alabama football team if any court -- or even the President of the United States -- ordered an end to the unconstitutional practices.
The prayer debate in Alabama has gotten even hotter. Earlier this week, Judge Price -- responding to pleas from the plaintiffs -- visited Moore's courtroom, and underscored his earlier ruling by ordering the Decalogue plaque removed. On Monday, he said that fellow Judge Moore had ten days to remove the Ten Commandments or display them in some historical or cultural context. "It is obvious that the sole purpose of the plaques hanging in the courtroom in such a fashion in purely religious," noted Judge Price.
Judge Moore would agree, as would Governor James. Moore told the New York Times that "I feel that I'm sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Alabama, and those constitutions are founded upon a fundamental belief in God ... my display of the Ten Commandments and prayer before sessions are simply acknowledgments of God."
Governor Fob James has continued to repeat his threat to call out the guard and state police, saying that he will use "all legal means at my disposal ... to prevent the removal of the Ten Commandments from Judge Moore's courtroom." He now compares himself to Abraham Lincoln, seeing a parallel between his resistance to the removal order, and the Great Emancipator's resistance to slavery. He told the Times that "If we accept all judge's orders, we don't have a government of law, we have a government of men."
News reports suggest that Judge Price will probably not try to enforce the removal order, at least for now. Alabama Attorney General Bill Bryor says that his office will launch legal appeals; and Larry Mundinger reports that the State Supreme Court has temporaily blocked enforcement of Price's decision.
Meanwhile, Joel Sogol, one of the ACLU attorneys involved in the case, notes that Judge Moore's practice of starting courtroom proceedings with a prayer and posting the Ten Commandments "stigmatizes" those who do not believe in religion, specifically Christianity.
"If you're subpoenaed for jury duty, or if you are a party to lawsuit, and the judge calls in Christian clergymen to lead the prayer," noted Sogol, any refusal to participate could influence the outcome of the proceedings. "If you are an attorney, you have jeopardized your client and jeopardized your case. If you are a juror, you have stigmatized yourself in the eyes of other jurors. That's not what this country is about."
James' Support of
Moore Speaks Volumes
by Ron Barrier
from AANEWS by American Atheists
February 14, 1997
Ron Barrier, the "Slice 'n Dice" Atheist who is also the American Atheist National Media Coordinator, has some cutting words about Judge Roy Moore in a letter sent today to the New York Times ...
Judge Roy Moore suffers from an inability to distinguish the First Amendment from the First Commandment ("Judge Lets God's Law Mix With Alabama's," Feb. 13).
The First Amendment prohibits "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." What this protects as an article of basic law is the right of the individual to investigate, study, embrace or reject any and all of the various religions and freedom from state coercion in such matters.
The First Commandment explicitly disallows any such freedom. The object of worship is clearly stated. There is no room for discussion. Doubt is a moral misgiving and rejection is a punishable offense.
The environment of the courtroom, in theory, should be hospitable to all citizens equally under he law. It is not a proper venue for coercing citizens to participate in orchestrated rituals of a specific religion designed to contact the dead or the conceptualized, ethereal leaders of such a religion.
Gov. James' support of Mr. Moore, even to employ the use of weapons, speaks volumes about the true agenda of the religious right and poses serious questions as just how safe are the basic individuals freedoms of this country.
We have a problem.
Ronald J. Barrier,
Missouri 51st Militia
Supports Alabama Governor
|(["Necessary Force"] Editor's Note: Judge Roy Moore of the Etowah County Court in Gadsden, Alabama, opens his court every morning with a prayer. He has a plaque, which he made himself, of the Ten Commandments on the wall of his courtroom. The American Civil Liberties Union recently took Judge Moore to court and obtained a ruling that he must cease his prayer and remove his plaque from his courtroom. The case is currently on appeal. In the meantime, Gov. Fob James of Alabama told Associated Press on Feb. 10 that "The only way those Ten Commandments and prayer would be stripped from that courtroom is with the force of arms." Gov. James has vowed to use the National Guard andor state troopers to defend Judge Moore's prayer and plaque. Following is the text of a letter sent to Gov. James by Col. McKinzey offering the support of the 51st.)|
Feb. 18, 1997
The Honorable Fob James, Jr.
P. O. Box 302751
Montgomery, AL 36130-2751
Dear Gov. James:
The command staff and members of the Missouri 51st Militia would like to commend you for your stand in defense of Judge Roy Moore. It exemplifies the best in courage and dedication to the principles of Constitutional rights and state sovereignty and is, in addition, an open and public acknowledgment of the Ten Commandments as the basis for our system of jurisprudence.
It is my understanding that the case between Judge Moore and the ACLU is still under appeal. I hope and pray that the appeals court will rule in favor of Judge Moore.
However, if the ruling is unfavorable, I want you to understand that you will still have our full support. We have fully trained and well-equipped personnel ready to assist you, and we would be honored to serve under your command. This is the function of the militia, to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
If you would like further information on our organization, you may access our web page at
Please do not hesitate to call upon us at your convenience.
Col. James A. McKinzey, Commanding
Missouri 51st Militia
The Daily Iowan
Why We Need Religious
Neutrality In Courtrooms
by Michael Totten
February 19, 1997
Here we go again. The Supreme Court of Alabama has ordered that a display of the Ten Commandments on the wall of Judge Roy Moore's courtroom in Gadsden, Ala., must be removed, and Moore, who begins courtroom deliberations with prayer, must stop.
And Republican Gov. Fob James, in classic "kiss my ass" Alabama style, refuses to cooperate. He has threatened to call out the National Guard and the state troopers to defend the Ten Commandments and the courtroom prayer.
In the 1960s, then-Alabama governor George Wallace called out the National Guard to keep black students out of the federally desegregated schools. Wallace personally stood in the doorway of one school and physically kept the black students out.
The separation of church and state forbids any branch of government from establishing a religion. Initially, Montgomery, Ala., Circuit Court Judge Charles Price told Moore he could keep the Ten Commandments on the wall, as long as they were for historic purposes. But when Moore specifically stated the prayer and the Ten Commandments were for religious purposes, the court changed its mind and ordered them removed.
Too many ultraconservatives still believe liberals and so-called secular humanists are part of a Communist conspiracy to destroy Christianity. The Christian Coalition explicitly states that this is their belief, as does James Dobson's Focus on the Family, which claims as many as 5 million members.
In some ways, the position is understandable. When a "liberal" judge forces the removal of the Ten Commandments and silences prayer, it does seem a bit like outlawing religion. But only when the larger picture is ignored.
There are three different attitudes that governments across the world take toward religion. There are Communist governments like the former Soviet Union and modern China where churches, temples and shrines have been demolished and organized religious leaders have been imprisoned and killed.
Then there are theocracies, such as modern Iran, Saudi Arabia and many former Christian governments of Europe, where religion is forced on the populace, often with torture, imprisonment, and execution as a punishment for "heresy" or adhering to the "wrong" religion. Salem, Mass., set up a theocracy for itself before the U.S. Constitution was written, and Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" depicts the murderous witch hunts that resulted. With both the Communist and theocratic models, tyranny is the norm.
The United States is a liberal secular democracy where the government is neutral toward religion. This is the third way between the two extremes. We have the freedom to worship, the freedom to pray and the freedom to adhere to any religion or denomination we please. We also have the freedom to ignore religion altogether. We cannot have the freedom of religion without also having freedom from religion. Any attempt to establish the freedom of religion and enforce Christianity at the same time is as reasonable as trying to draw a round square.
Moore says the Constitution was "founded on a fundamental belief in God." Yet, the words "God" and "Christian" are completely absent from the Constitution. The word "religion" only appears once, and that is in the First Amendment that bans the "establishment of religion." The reason for this was because the founding fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson, knew the dangers of mixing politics and religion after the European witch hunts, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the holy wars and the Reign of Terror.
Throughout most of U.S. history, it was just "common sense" that Catholics had allied themselves with Satan and were out to subjugate the planet. Eventually this paranoid view was pointed only at Jews, and now is aimed directly at "secular humanists" and liberals. Those on the far right don't know how to feel if they don't have the "forces of evil" to pit themselves against.
On the other hand, the Ten Commandments on the courtroom wall are largely symbolic, however annoying they may be to some. A person cannot be dragged before the court for forgetting the Sabbath. Moore may open with prayer, but that does not imply a theocracy. A non-Christian may very well be coerced into saying a prayer to avoid stigmatization, but this is a minor infraction and should not be mistaken for an inquisition.
It would be unseemly for the left to fall into the same "devil theory" trap of conspiratorial ideologies that still have an iron grip on the right.
Michael Totten's column appears Wednesdays on
the Viewpoints Pages.
Copyright 1996 The Daily Iowan.
Project Hang Ten
Judge Blasts ACLU
In Alabama Rally
by William C. Singleton III
February 23, 1997
GADSDEN -- Etowah County Circuit Judge Roy S. Moore's ongoing legal fight to display the Ten Commandments and pray in court has become more than a bothersome separation of church and state issue.
It has become a rallying cry for conservative Christians who claim the American Civil Liberties Union and others want to turn their beloved Christian nation into a secular wasteland.
But they say enough is enough, and Alabama is where they'll take their stand.
That theme resonated during a rally in Moore's behalf at Gadsden State Community College Sunday night [February 22].
More than 2,000 people packed the Wallace Hall auditorium and another 2,000 stood in the chilly air outside watching the rally on a large projector screen provided by Whites Chapel Baptist Church near Gadsden.
"If you're here tonight to support me, you shouldn't be here," Moore said working the evangelical crowd into a frenzy. "This is not about me. This is about something far more important. It transcends race, it transcends politics, it transcends gender. This is about the laws of God."
Moore has been battling the courts since 1995 when the ACLU and members of the Alabama Free-Thought Association sued to stop prayer before jury selection -- a tradition in the Etowah County courtroom house -- and to have Moore remove a wood-craved plaque of the Ten Commandments he hangs in his courtroom.
The issue became even bigger when Gov. Fob James said he would call out the National Guard to keep the Ten Commandments hanging.
Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price recently ruled that Moore could continue to hang the plaque from his wall.
But when he visited Moore's courtroom earlier this month he ruled the display was purely religious and ordered Moore by Feb. 10 to either hang other historical documents with it or take it down.
The Alabama Supreme Court issued a stay of Price's order until the ruling could be heard on appeal.
Today, prayer was expected to accompany the beginning of jury selection early today at the Etowah County Courthouse.
Although Moore has received his share of criticism on the issue, he has been warmly embraced by Christians who share his belief and his struggle.
His cause has become symbolic of persecution these Christians feel they've experienced as they witness their religious freedoms eroding.
During the rally, books proclaiming the "real" understanding of church-state -- including one called "Original Intent: the Courts, the Constitution and Religion" by David Barton -- were sold.
Ministers delivered rousing prayers calling the nation back to God and urged Christians to take up the battle.
Speakers quoted from founding fathers who espoused views linking government and Christianity.
"We're told by groups like the ACLU that this nation was founded by a bunch of deists," said Dean Young, executive director for the Christan Family Association, which sponsored the event.
He went on to quote Benjamin Franklin. "This deist, they say, said this: 'I have lived sir a long time and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men and if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without notice is it possible that an empire can rise without his aid?'" Young said. "If that's a deist I'll take him any day."
He also blamed Christians for sleeping while the courts removed prayer and Bible reading from schools and the Ten Commandments from classroom walls. "I point the finger at me and I point the finger at Christians," he said. But "I want to tell the ACLU and the People for the American Way that in 1997 that game is over the Christians are alive and well in Alabama."
An organization called Project Hang Ten from North Carolina sold granite slabs of the Ten Commandments.
In fact, the Ten Commandments were displayed on buttons and posters throughout the auditorium. Part of the proceeds were pledged for Moore's legal defense.
Also, petitions asking the state Supreme Court to allow Moore to continue his practices were distributed on the back of programs.
Two Christian music videos captured the mood of the crowd. One by contemporary Christian artist Carman, "We Need God in America," discussed how the departure from Christian values has led to an increase in crime, teenage pregnancy and other social ills.
Even though the video blacked out shortly before it started, the crowd still cheered wildly at any reference to the nation returning to God.
Another video by Ray Boltz, "I Pledge Allegience to the Lamb," played on the crowd's sense of martyrdom as a man tells his son about how the nation once honored faith in God and how one day he will have to take a stand for Jesus as the father is led away to execution by state authorities. With hands lifted high, many participants stood and sang along near the end of the video.
Throughout the rally, supporters waved banners and signs. "We cannot take God out of America and still remain America," said Darlene Arnette, a member of Briarwood Presbyterian Church near Birmingham, who stood outside with a banner in support of the Ten Commandments.
One lone protester, Chris McDougal, braved the multitude of Christians. "I'm out here because I feel it is wrong for a judge who's a representative of our government can impose his religious beliefs on unwilling minority members who are summons to be in the courtroom without a choice," he said, holding a poster decrying tyranny.
Young later confronted McDougal saying he would be allowed in the building
but would be escorted out if he disrupted the program. During Young's rousing
patriotic [sic] speech, McDougal shouted from in back of the auditorium.
Young quickly had security escort him from the building.
Rally Backs Prayer
Prayer Boosters Rally in Alabama;
Blast ACLU, Deism
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
February 25, 1997
Supporters of Alabama county Judge Roy Moore, the man who says he will defy court orders to end prayer in his courtroom and remove a plaque of the Ten Commandments, got loud and obnoxious Sunday night during a rally attended by more than 4,000 persons. They filled the Wallace Hall auditorium at Gadsden State Community College, and poured outside into the night air. According to the Birmingham Post-Herald, the embattled Judge Moore was "working the evangelical crowd into a frenzy," telling his audience that "This is not about me. This is about something far more important ... This is about the laws of God."
The paper noted that Moore's ongoing legal battle to keep the prayer and Decalogue display has become a "rallying cry" for those who fears that "their beloved Christian nation" is being transmogrified into a "secular wasteland."
Moore's troubles began in 1995 when the American Civil Liberties Union and members of the Alabama Free Thought Association sued to end the practice of prayer before jury selection and other court proceedings, and have a hand-carved plaque ostensibly depicting the Ten Commandments taken down. Another circuit court judge ruled that Moore had to end the prayer, but could keep the plaque if it was made part of a larger "historical" exhibit. Moore refused. Judge Charles Price then toured Moore's courtroom, and decided that the Decalogue also had to go since it was clearly a religious display.
Governor Fob James has hopped on the prayer-and-Commandments bandwagon, having pledged to call out the state guard, state police and University of Alabama football team if necessary to preserve the invasive and unconstitutional religious rituals.
Meanwhile, the Alabama State Supreme Court has issued a stay on the removal order until an appeal can be heard. The Post-Herald notes that "Today, prayer was expected to accompany the beginning of jury selection ... at the Etowah County Courthouse."
"Although Moore has received his share of criticism on the issue," notes the paper, "he has been warmly embraced by Christians who share his belief and his struggle."
At the Sunday rally, Dean Young of the Christian Family Association declared: "We're told by groups like the ACLU that this nation was founded by a bunch of deists." Young also blamed his fellow Christians for "sleeping" while prayer and other ritual was removed from government institutions like public schools. "I point the finger at me and I point the finger at Christians," Young declared. "I want to tell the ACLU and the People for the American Way that in 1997 the game is over (sic) the Christians are alive and well in Alabama."
During the rally, a group called Project Hang Ten sold slabs depicting the Decalogue, and petitions asking the state Supreme Court to allow Moore to continue his practices were circulated. "Christian videos" such as "We Need God in America" and "I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb" were also shown. Participants waved signs and banners with legends such as "We cannot take God out of America and still remain America."
Also on sale during the Sunday prayer pep-rally were materials by David
Barton, head of the "Wallbuilders" group which promotes a historically
disingenuous view of the First Amendment and state-church separation. Barton
has maintained that separation has no legal or moral foundation in American
history; he has been criticized for distorting quotations, and using "evidence"
that appears nowhere in documents. His books and videos include "The
Myth of Separation," a popular seller in Christian bookstores.
Atheist Says NO
To Courtroom Prayer!
Alfred Faulkenberry Stands By First Amendment
In Judge Moore's Court
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists
February 25, 1997
An Atheist has refused to participate in a prayer orchestrated by embattled Etowah County (Alabama) Judge Roy Moore, who has attracted national attention for opening court proceedings with an invocation and posting a hand carved Ten Commandments plaque on the wall.
Alfred Faulkenberry, 63, walked out of a jury organizing session yesterday after he informed Moore that he was an Atheist and did not wish to participate. Moore was presiding over a periodic meeting for prospective jurors where they receive, en masse, instructions. According to Mrs. Carol Faulkenberry, Alfred's wife, it is unusual for the jury organizing meetings to be opened by a prayer. Judges are rotated, however, and yesterday Moore had Rev. Phillip Ellen, pastor of a local Baptist church, deliver the invocation. Mrs. Faulkenberry said late this afternoon that Alfred objected to the prayer, left the chamber, and then returned after the invocation was completed. At the end of jury organizing meeting, Mr. Faulkenberry announced that he would swear an oath to "god", but instead stated his intention to "affirm" that he would perform his duty as a juror.
Moore has been in a legal battle over the constitutionality of his practice of using an opening prayer and posting the Decalogue. In 1995, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the practice on behalf of the Alabama Freethinkers Association. The Faulkenberrys are both active AFA members.
Moore continues this blatantly unconstitutional practice following a ruling by County Circuit Court Judge Charles Price, who recently issued a "cease and desist" ruling on the prayer. Price originally said that the Decalogue display could remain if it were made part of a larger "cultural" display. But after seeing the hard carved Ten Commandments plaque, Price ruled that the Ten Commandments were simply a "religious" statement and thus violated First Amendment state-church separation.
The Alabama Supreme Court has issued a stay on Price's ruling. Churches and religious organizations throughout the state have launched a petition campaign supporting Judge Moore. And Alabama Governor Fob James has joined the controversy, threatening to call out the state police, national guard and the University of Alabama football team if necessary to keep prayer, and the Ten Commandments, in courtrooms throughout the state.
Carol Faulkenberry Asked To Leave
Mrs. Faulkenberry said that she has been monitoring the jury organizing sessions in Etowah County to see if prayer or other religious rituals were part of courtroom business. She noted that she had always received permission from the Clerk of the Court to enter the chamber where the proceedings were taking place.
But on Monday, Scott Barnett an "assistant" to Judge Moore tried to prevent Mrs. Faulkenberry from entering the courtroom to view the proceedings, saying that she did not have press credentials. A reporter for ABC, however, invited her into the chambers using his pass; when the "assistant" spotted Carol, he raised his voice and declared that only accredited journalists were permitted in this public venue. Mrs. Faulkenberry was then escorted out of the courtroom, and an armed Sheriff's deputy posted at the door to keep her out.
The local Times newspaper observed that "only jurors and authorized members of the media were allowed inside the courtroom," adding that "there were more deputies than usual in and around the courtroom." Barnett described this as a "precaution," a term Mrs. Faulkenberry found somewhat amusing. "Who am I a threat to?," she jokingly asked.
Outside, members of Alabama Freethinkers and supporters carried signs reading "Love Thy First Amendment," "The First Amendment Protects ALL Faiths" and "This is not Roy Moore's church." Chris McDougal, an AFA member from Birmingham was on the scene giving interviews to the media which included National Public Radio.
Mrs. Faulkenberry reports that some media asked whether or not the Monday proceeding was a "set-up" in light of the publicity Judge Moore has been generating. "It really was just a coincidence that my husband was called," she said. She added that many people in the community of Gadsden oppose the prayer ritual, "including a lot of Christians." She told the Times that Moore may be getting support from people who want simple solutions to problems -- everything from their teenage daughters getting pregnant to their sons joining gangs. "It's an easy answer ... to tell people we make things better by having prayer requires nothing else." She added that she recently heard claims from people who said that the United States was losing jobs to Mexico because God is punishing attitudes in the country over abortion and gay rights. (Studies by the Commerce Departments suggest a net gain of approximately 45,000 jobs since the NAFTA agreement -- ed.)
Meanwhile, Al Faulkenberry -- the guy standing up to Judge Roy Moore and his wholesale violation of First Amendment rights -- is now generating some attention of his own. The story is spreading throughout the country, and is now reportedly in the British media.
Meanwhile, kudos to Alfred and Carol Faulkenberry.