The long-running saga of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s two-and-a-half-ton Ten Commandments monument took a new twist in July: The rock went on the road.
Members of American Veterans Standing for God and Country negotiated with Moore to remove the monument, dubbed “Roy’s rock” by many in Alabama, from a locked storage room in the Judicial Building in Montgomery and take it on a multi-state tour. They hope to culminate the pilgrimage in Washington, D.C., next month.
“Our goal is to expose this monument to as many of the American people as we can,” Jim Cabaniss, president of the group, told The Washington Post.
The organization, a division of an outfit called American Veterans in Domestic Defense (AVIDD), holds extreme views and seems steeped in paranoia. Its website lists “domestic enemies,” which include “Biased Liberal, Socialist News Media,” “Socialist Members of Congress,” the Federal Reserve System, the “Tyrannical IRS System,” the National Education Association and “The Unsafe, Undisciplined Education System.” The site promises that AVIDD “will study the methods by which each of these and other domestic enemies operate and plan a strategy to neutralize their destructiveness.”
The site also states, “After much research, AVIDD has determined that the IRS and its unlawful practices are one of our domestic enemies” because the agency “extorts unowed money from the American People.”
Outlandish conspiracy theories permeate the site. It contends that in 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed through legislation giving the federal government the power to declare all Americans enemies of the federal government.
“Bottom line is that the federal government considers you as ‘an enemy,’” reads the essay. “Later, we had some good company, such as Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito.”
Cabaniss said the group admires Moore and agrees with him that courts have no right to restrict government displays of religion.
“We believe it’s time the American people wake up to the fact that our judicial system is running roughshod over our Christian heritage, and we as veterans want to stand up and say that,” Cabaniss told The Birmingham News.
He also asserted, “We’re not a militia. We’re not a right-wing organization. We are a group of veterans.”
But critics say the group is on a vendetta against the federal courts, noting that its site labels the “Failed Judicial System” another of its domestic enemies.
The tour began in Dayton, Tenn., home of the famous “Scopes monkey trial” of 1925 and has plans to pass through several southern states. The Rev. Wiley Drake, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., and a member of the veterans’ group, said organizers plan to end the tour with a large rally in Washington. They hope the monument’s permanent home will be in the U.S. Capitol.
Drake, who described Moore as “a very humble man,” said the ousted justice may speak at some rallies as the monument travels around the nation but that Moore has not attached himself to the tour. (Drake, a prominent Southern Baptist and foe of church-state separation, once announced that he was praying curses against Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn and the staff of Americans United.)
Moore was elected Alabama chief justice in 2000. He arranged to display the Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the Judicial Building in August of 2001. A few months later, Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the Southern Poverty Law Center sued on behalf of local plaintiffs.
The groups won, and the monument was ordered removed from public display at the court. When Moore defied a court order to take it away, he was removed from the bench.
Moore has been trying to get his old job back but without success so far. In April, a special panel of retired state judges, sitting as the state supreme court, upheld Moore’s dismissal, noting his defiance of a federal court order.
Moore has one shot left, and he’s using it. In August, his attorneys filed an appeal of his dismissal before the U.S. Supreme Court. Legal analysts say it is highly unlikely that the high court will agree to hear Moore’s appeal.