Roy Moore, whose removal as Alabama’s chief justice for defying a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Supreme Court building made him a hero for conservatives, announced Monday he is running for governor, ending months of speculation.
Moore, 58, is likely to face fellow Southern Baptist and incumbent Gov. Bob Riley in the 2006 Republican primary. Riley is expected to announce soon he is running for re-election. Two Democrats are also running.
Moore was thought to be testing waters for a gubernatorial run in June when he spoke at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference in Nashville, Tenn.
“Our schools, our political institutions, are not holding water today, because we have tried to construct them without God,” Moore said to a receptive crowd.
Moore, author of So Help Me God, achieved cult status among religious conservatives when Alabama’s judicial ethics panel removed him as chief justice Nov. 13, 2002, finding he “willfully and publicly” put himself above the law, thus violating his oath of office.
But Moore claimed his legal battle was about the state’s right to acknowledge God. “There’s no higher power than God,” he told Southern Baptists in June. “The powers that be are ordained by God.”
The Atlantic Monthly profiled Moore’s appearance at the SBC in its October issue. “Anyone looking to foment a religious reawakening in America today would be wise to enlist the Southern Baptist Convention, particularly if the reawakening were to take the form of a political campaign,” wrote writer Joshua Green, who joined Moore for a number of interviews and speeches over several months.
“Southern Baptists, even more than other denominations, voted overwhelmingly for Bush and have emerged as a force within the Republican Party,” he wrote. “Moore was hardly alone in seeking to intensify Christian influence over American public life when he appeared at the Southern Baptist Pastors’ annual conference in Nashville, last June. But as the crusade’s standard bearer in the political arena, he was given a prime speaker’s slot, just before the Reverend Jerry Falwell.”
Introducing Moore, Pastors Conference president Steve Gaines said, “I, for one, believe with all my heart he took the right stand for the Lord.”
Moore first gained notoriety in 1995 as a circuit judge, when the ACLU sued him for displaying a copy of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and opening sessions with prayer. He parlayed the controversy into election as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in November 2000 in a campaign promising to restore the “moral foundation” of law.
On July 31, 2001, Moore raised private funds to place a 5,300-pound granite monument to the Ten Commandments in the central rotunda of the state judicial building.
Several groups sued to have the monument removed, claiming it violated the separation of church and state. A federal judge ruled it an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and ordered its removal.
An appeals court upheld the ruling and returned the order to a lower court for enforcement. Moore refused to comply, and the state was fined $5,000 a day until the Alabama Supreme Court intervened and ordered the monument removed.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal against the court order to remove the monument in November 2003. On Nov. 13, 2003, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary voted unanimously to remove Moore as chief justice.
The monument was taken on a tour of the nation on the back of a flat-bed truck. It was on display in the SBC exhibit hall this summer. It is now kept at CrossPoints Community Church in Gadsden, Ala, Moore’s hometown.
Moore said if he is elected he has no plans to relocate the Ten Commandments monument, according to the Associated Press.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.