August 28, 2003
Alabama Abandons 10 Commandments and Continues to Apply the Death Penalty

A contentious granite monument inscribed with the ten commandments and other religious references was finally removed from public view at the Alabama state judicial building yesterday, in the face of furious protests.

The removal was carried out in response to an order by a federal judge that the monument's presence violated the constitutional separation of state and church.

More than 100 religious activists protested and prayed outside the building as a final legal attempt to halt the removal failed. The monument remains in the building but is no longer in a prominent position. It was unclear yesterday whether it would be taken away.

The Alabama judiciary currently applies a selective interpretation of the commandments, specifically the injunction, Thou shalt not kill. It is seventh in the list of states applying the death penalty, and has executed 28 people since it was reintroduced in 1976.

The executive director of the Death Penalty Information Centre, Richard Deiter, said yesterday that Alabama stood out as a state which allowed the execution of juveniles and did not provide adequate legal representation to those facing execution.

The Rev Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said: "This is a tremendous victory for the rule of law and for respect for religious diversity."

Dozens of camera crews and reporters watched the removal crew laboriously but gently remove the 2,376kg (2.3 ton) monument.

The Alabama chief justice, Roy Moore, had the monument installed, at night and on his own initiative, two years ago and it became a big issue in the state.

Last year a federal judge ordered its removal and last week the US supreme court declined to hear Mr Moore's appeal against the order, indicating that it did not believe it had any merit.

After Mr Moore refused to comply with the order his eight fellow justices voted to remove the monument and Mr Moore was suspended on ethics charges.

Since then he has delivered speeches defending his position, and yesterday he issued a statement declaring the removal "a sad day in our country".

"Perhaps Roy Moore will soon leave the bench and move into the pulpit, which he seems better suited for," Mr Lynn said yesterday.

Posted by tstubbs at August 28, 2003 10:31 AM | Trackback
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