State of Alabama v. ACLU
Supreme Court of the State of Alabama (1997)
Judge Bars Muslims, Hindus
By JESSICA SAUNDERS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Judge Roy Moore displays a plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and opens sessions with prayer.
And the judge, a Baptist whose fight to keep religion in his courtroom has inspired a national rally, invites others to pray with him -- as long as they're not Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists.
They do not acknowledge the God of the holy Bible on which this country was founded," Moore says.
Tens of thousands are expected to attend a rally at the Alabama Capitol on Saturday to show their support for Moore, including national conservative leaders like Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition and the Rev. Don Wildmon of the American Family Association.
The judge has won wide support from conservative groups, as well as Alabama politicians and congressional leaders, as he appeals orders for him to stop opening court sessions with prayer and to remove or alter the wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments that hangs behind his bench.
Moore contends the First Amendment gives him the right to practice Christianity in his Etowah County Circuit courtroom.
Not all are aware that Moore draws a firm line against inviting anyone outside the Judeo-Christian tradition to conduct the prayers in his courtroom.
"My duty under the Constitution is to acknowledge the Judeo-Christian God," not the gods of other faiths, Moore said." We are not a nation founded upon the Hindu god or Buddha.
Only Christians have been invited to lead the prayers, but the judge's clerk, Scott Barnett, said he did try to contact a local rabbi but couldn't reach him.
While Moore would not invite representatives of other religions, he would not stop them.
"That's their right," Moore said.
Some of the judge's supporters were troubled that Moore was insisting on his own religious freedom but limiting its practice to one faith only.
"My personal view is that our founding fathers would have permitted prayer from other denominations," said former U.S. Sen. Jeremiah Denton, who will lead the Pledge of Allegiance at Saturday's rally.
Gov. Fob James, who has vowed to call out the National Guard to defend Moore's beliefs if necessary, said he doesn't think Moore is being intolerant of non-Christians by refusing to invite them to pray in his court.
"I think that's his call," said James, a rally speaker. "You might ask Congress how many Hindu or Muslim leaders they have had to lead prayers."
The House chaplain, who invites about one pastor a week during sessions to give the opening prayer, said Tuesday in Washington that he recalled a Muslim giving it at the request of a congressman. Imam Siraj Wahaj was invited by Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and gave the prayer in 1991.
"There's no exclusion that I know of," said the Rev. James Ford, a Lutheran who has been House chaplain for 18 years.
The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith, which has filed a brief opposing Moore's side in the lawsuit, is concerned that the judge appears to be endorsing a specific religion to the exclusion of others, said Jay Kaiman of the ADL's Southeast regional office in Atlanta.
"If I had a problem... and I was in front of Judge Moore -- and he knew what I did for a living and he knew my faith -- I would feel that would bias his attitude," said Kaiman, who is Jewish.
© Copyright 1997 The Associated Press
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