In 2003, a federal court ordered that a monument featuring the Ten Commandments be removed from the Alabama Judicial building in Montgomery.
Since then, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling has reversed federal law that had formed the basis for that removal.
On Friday, a Huntsville attorney started a movement to return the Ten Commandments monument to the Alabama Judicial Building.
Attorney Dean Johnson says that supporters of displaying the Ten Commandments can now "go on the offensive" and place displays of the ancient text on public sites.
He says the 2022 case of Kennedy v. Bremerton reversed the legal basis for removing Ten Commandments displays and halting other Biblical references in the public domain.
Website Restore the Commandments was activated on Friday. It initiated an online petition supporting the restoration of the removed Ten Commandments monument in the Montgomery building. The petition is directed to the nine justices of the Alabama Supreme Court.
The website explains the reversal of the "Lemon Law" as follows:
"The Kennedy case came about when Joseph Kennedy lost his job as a high school football coach in the Bremerton School District after he knelt at midfield after games to offer a quiet personal prayer. Mr. Kennedy sued in federal court.
The District Court found that the 'sole reason'... to suspend Mr. Kennedy was its perceived 'risk of constitutional liability' under the (First Amendment's) Establishment Clause for his 'religious conduct'... (meaning Kennedy was violating the Establishment Clause)... the Ninth Circuit affirmed.
(The U.S. Supreme Court) Held: The Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal; the Constitution neither mandates nor permits the government to suppress such religious expression.
In place of Lemon and the endorsement test, this Court has instructed that the Establishment Clause must be interpreted by *reference to historical practices and understandings.'(instead of the Lemon test)... An analysis focused on original meaning and history, this Court has stressed, has long represented the rule rather than some 'exception' within the 'Court's Establishment Clause jurisprudence'.
There is no conflict between the constitutional commands of the First Amendment in this case. There is only the 'mere shadow' of a conflict, a false choice premised on a misconstruction of the Establishment Clause. A government entity's concerns about phantom constitutional violations do not justify actual violations of an individual's First Amendment rights Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic. Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a personal religious observance... The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination. Mr. Kennedy is entitled to summary judgment on his religious exercise and free speech claims."
The online petition directed to the Alabama justices reads: "We the people of Alabama and these United States petition you, as Chief Justice and as Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Alabama, to restore the Ten Commandments monument to the prominent place in the Alabama Judicial Building where it previously was displayed. With the now-overturned Lemon test, the monument would not have been removed in 2003. We are calling on you to Restore the Commandments."
The justices have not as yet been contacted about the petition.
Attorney Kelly Shackleford, a national activist with the First Liberty Institute, said, "Everywhere that crosses went down, they come back up. Everywhere that Ten Commandments were in closets, they come back out. Everywhere that prayer was taken out, it goes back in. It is now about the people taking back their country. We have already (legally) won. It is just every person needs to go into their own community and say, why don't we have prayer at the school board meetings? Why won't we have a nativity scene?"
Alabama's then-Chief Justice Roy Moore designed and paid for the Ten Commandments monument in 2001. After the federal court order was handed down and appeals were lost, the associate justices of the court directed that the monument be removed.
The monument is now Moore's property and is believed to be on display at the Foundation for Moral Law's office in Montgomery. Since the monument is Moore's private property, he would have to agree to donate or loan it to the state judiciary if they decide to allow it to be returned to the judicial building for display.
Moore is not involved in the Restore the Commandments movement.
Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected]
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