Artifact of the Culture Wars En Route From Alabama
By Monte Reel
Sunday, July 25, 2004; Page C05
The rock itself weighs about 2.5 tons, and that's not counting all the baggage it brings with it on a cross-country journey that organizers hope will end this autumn on the Mall.
Famously ordered out of Alabama's high court in 2002, the marble carving of the Ten Commandments accumulated the kind of symbolism that shifts drastically depending on which side of it the viewer stands.
For some, the sculpture represented an act of courage by a defiant judge who lost his job while standing up for his faith; for others, it symbolized an affront to the separation of church and state.
The monument had been lying low for a few months, stored out of sight in a back room in the Alabama Judiciary Building in Montgomery. But Roy S. Moore, who was ousted as Alabama chief justice after refusing to remove the monument from display, lent the stone last week to a Texas-based veterans group.
On Monday, the group, American Veterans in Domestic Defense, used a crane to lift the monument onto the back of a truck. Group members said they plan to drive it across the country, ending up on the Mall on Oct. 22 and 23 for a Christian rally. They hope that Washington is where it will stay: on display in the U.S. Capitol.
On the way, members of the group hope to make stops in numerous cities and to broadcast their conservative Christian message. The group advertises its mission as returning "the United States to the vision of our forefathers, under the Constitution and our Bill of Rights" and neutralizing "domestic enemies," including entities such as the "biased liberal, Socialist news media," the judicial system, the Federal Reserve, the National Education Association, the Internal Revenue Service and "the conspiracy of an immoral film industry."
"Our goal is to expose this monument to as many of the American people as we can," said Jim Cabaniss, president of the Houston-based veterans group.
Cabaniss and others in the group supported Moore during his fight to display the monument in the courthouse. Cabaniss also has joined Moore in a campaign to enact legislation that would prohibit the U.S. Supreme Court from reviewing matters that concern any government official's "acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty or government." The two men visited Washington in June to talk to lawmakers when Moore got an idea, Cabaniss said.
"We were in the Rotunda of the [U.S.] Capitol, and Judge Moore said, 'This monument needs to be in this building,' " Cabaniss said.
The group will seek congressional approval to place the monument permanently in the Capitol at the time of the Washington rally.
Given its recent history in Alabama, however, Cabaniss isn't especially confident that the sculpture will make it off the truck bed and into the Rotunda.
"I think a lot of people would like to move it there, but I wonder whether our elected officials have the strong desire to work toward that end," he said.
If it doesn't find a place in the Capitol, Cabaniss said, the group will try to find another spot for it in Washington.
"We'll build a place for it in the nation's capital," he said.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company