ADC Amicus Brief Challenges Justice’s Establishment of Religion

Washington, DC–On Monday, April 28, 2003, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the largest grassroots Arab-American civil rights organization filed an amicus (friend of the court brief) in the case of Glassroth v. Moore, which is on appeal with the Eleventh Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.
This case involves the appellant’s (Roy S. Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court) placing of a 5,280 pound monument featuring the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama State Judicial Building. This building also houses the Alabama Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court of Civil Appeals, the state law library, and the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts. In November, a US district court ruled the monument unconstitutional, and Justice Moore is now appealing.
ADC is submitting the amicus to show support for the appellees, and is joined in this endeavor by several other civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Americans United for Separation of Church & State, who are filing separate briefs. Lawyers Catherine E. Stetson, Benjamin F. Holt, and Robert B. Wolinsky of the law firm Hogan and Hartson wrote the brief for ADC.
The brief states that the addition of this monument to the Alabama State Judicial Building directly violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government from endorsing one religious view over others, or religion over non-religion.
Featuring the Ten Commandments, an undeniably sacred text in some denominations, shows a clear religious preference. The religious nature of the monument is further enhanced by its lack of historical or secular context. In fact, the quotations on the monument taken from secular or historical sources are adapted to focus on their religious aspects; citing “So help me God” from the Judiciary Act of 1789 is one example.
Finally, the monument’s placement in a central position in a core government building sends a clear message that the government of the state of Alabama, including its legal system, specifically endorses those denominations of Christianity that subscribe to this version of the Ten Commandments. This is unacceptable and unconstitutional, as courts should and must protect minority groups from the imposition of hegemonic preferences. To show individuals belonging to minority groups that their views are not preferred by the legal system severely diminishes the ability of the courts to protect minority rights and liberties.
ADC is submitting this brief to show its commitment to upholding the civil rights of all American citizens. The freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion that are an integral part of American society mandate the separation of church and state to ensure their existence. Placing a monument upholding the religious beliefs of one denomination over another in a government building is therefore a clear violation of the constitution.

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