Rally leaders: If monument moved, civil disobedience possible

by Michael Foust, posted Monday, August 18, 2003 (15 years ago)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)--Could disagreement with a court ruling lead to civil disobedience, fines and arrests in front of a Ten Commandments monument?

Yes, say leaders who attended a rally Aug. 16 in support of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson has ordered Moore to remove the 5,300-pound granite monument from the rotunda of the judicial building by Aug. 20, but Moore has refused.

He faces possible fines and jail time if the monument remains. Moore had it placed in the building two years ago.

"There are many who are not going to just sit back and watch them move it out," Rick Scarborough, co-chairman of Vision America, the rally's sponsor, told Baptist Press.

In fact, Scarborough could be one of those involved, although his involvement would come as an individual and not as a representative of Vision America, he said.

"If I choose to disobey it will not be as Vision America head, because I can't do that on behalf of 2,000 pastors," he said. "I would have to do it on behalf of myself."

The issue concerning the monument falls under the Acts 5 definition of disobedience, Scarborough said. It is in Acts 5 that Peter and the Apostles say, "We must obey God rather than men."

"This is a religious liberty issue," Scarborough said.

Even though speakers at the rally said the issue was bigger than one monument or one man, they acknowledged that civil disobedience could follow. They noted that civil disobedience has a special place in American history, including in the civil rights movement.

"If you were to ask me what would I do, I couldn't answer that question," Liberty University chancellor Jerry Falwell told Baptist Press. "I'd have to pray that one out. Civil disobedience is not new in this country. That's how civil rights battles were all won -- civil disobedience.

"So when someone decides to engage in civil disobedience, he or she has decided that [what they believe in is] important enough to go to jail for -- important enough to lose everything for. I can't ever do anything but respect someone who takes that kind of a stand."

Calling Moore "a man of extraordinary courage," former Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes said the chief justice should not back down.

"I think that he needs to stand firm," Keyes told BP. "I hope that the people in authority in the state of Alabama will rally around him and stand firm and fight this constitutional battle. This is not a legal issue -- this is a constitutional issue.

"What [Thompson] is doing in this case is an abuse of our most fundamental rights -- clear, contrary to the Constitution of the United States. That is not an issue that can be decided on legalisms."

It is not known how any civil disobedience would work, being that the monument is indoors and not accessible at night -- although it can be seen clearly through the building's glass doors. While the monument was accessible by rally supporters Aug. 16, the building's doors were locked before sundown.

Rally speakers said they will be watching how the state's highest officials -- particularly Gov. Bob Riley and Attorney General Bill Pryor -- react. Riley is a Southern Baptist and an outspoken Christian who personally holds Bible studies, while Pryor is a pro-life Catholic who has been nominated to a seat on the federal court of appeals. His nomination is being filibustered, primarily for his pro-family stances.

Riley issued a statement Aug. 14 saying that he believes the monument is constitutional.

"I have talked with Attorney General Bill Pryor and he shares my determination to pursue every course of legal action to protect the First Amendment rights of all Alabamians, including Chief Justice Moore, while, at the same time, ensuring that the rule of law prevails," the statement read.

But that statement didn't seem to satisfy some at the rally. Scarborough requested that those at the rally sign a petition that asks Riley "to practice what he preaches," he told the crowd. "I've been appalled at state leadership that repeatedly has said in this state, 'We applaud the chief [justice]. We're all for what you're doing, but we're going to uphold the law.' [But] I ask -- which law, God's law or man's law?"

Howard Phillips, former presidential nominee of the Constitution Party, gave out the office number of Pryor, asking those at the rally to call and voice their opinion. Phillips asked them to pray that Pryor "will subordinate his personal ambition" and instead defend both the U.S. and Alabama constitutions.

But Phillips then said to cheers, "It wouldn't surprise me to see after Attorney General Pryor has betrayed Moore that he recognizes that he could never again be elected to office in Alabama."

Phillips called on Thompson and the 11th Circuit of Appeals justices to resign, saying they will be remembered as the "Benedict Arnolds of American Jurisprudence."

Keyes called on President Bush to pardon Moore and on Bush and Congress to "put the bridle on ... unruly courts."


(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SUPPORTING JUDGE MOORE.

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