Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Unincorporated, Unprotected: Religion in an Established State


In the summer of 2004, the group American Veterans Standing for God and Country ("American Veterans") began a cross-country pilgrimage to carry a 5,200-pound statue of the Ten Commandments Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court when he refused to remove it from the lobby of the state courthouse in 2002. American Veterans took up Moore's cause, however, and in October they brought the Commandments statue to a Christian rally in Washington, D.C. The group then planned to ask Congress to display the statue permanently in the Capitol Building. The president of American Veterans also joined Moore in a campaign to enact legislation that would prohibit the Supreme Court from reviewing cases involving any government official's "acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government." As Moore explained in his recent book, "elected and appointed government officials have the right and obligation to acknowledge God as the foundation of American government."

At least one observer has likened the campaign of American Veterans to that of the biblical David, who planned to establish a theocracy and use the religious law of Israel to unify his nation. concerns. For example, the superintendent of a Missouri school district was put "on leave" for refusing to remove a plaque of the Ten Commandments from a local public school and a cross and a Bible from his office. Roy Moore supported the superintendent, claiming that "God gives [him] [the] right" to display such items. Former-Justice Moore and his affiliates are not alone in suggesting that local governments and government officials should be allowed to display religious symbols in an official context or to make religion an official part of public life. Some jurists have suggested similar changes in church-state relations as they currently stand. For example, Chief District Judge Brevard Hand ruled in a 1983 decision that the Establishment Clause was not intended to apply to state governments and did not prohibit public school teachers from offering prayers in school.'