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Roy Moore’s defiant road to become US senator

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — In his nearly three decades in the public eye, Roy Moore has never been one to shy away from controversy or confrontation.

Whether it’s the public display of the Ten Commandments or his refusal to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage, Moore has gained national attention for his dogged and bombastic defense of his brand of Christianity’s role in the American political system.

The twice-removed former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice is now vying to become Alabama’s next U.S. senator, taking on sitting U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, who is backed by both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump.

The race has become a proxy war between the populist and establishment wings of the Republican Party, and has even pitted the president against his former top aides Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who are backing Moore.

Next Tuesday, voters will choose Moore or Strange to take on former U.S. Attorney and Democratic nominee Doug Jones in the general election in December.

Here’s a look back at some of Moore’s most controversial moments since his first appointment to public office.

1992-2000

Moore’s first appointment as a judge came in 1992, when then-Gov. H. Guy Hunt appointed him to the 16th Circuit Court of Alabama.

Moore quickly generated controversy by hanging a wooden plaque inscribed with the Ten Commandments on the wall of his courtroom, and started the practice of beginning his court proceedings with a prayer.

In 1995, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Moore, claiming his display of the Ten Commandments and courtroom prayers were unconstitutional.

The suit was eventually dismissed after it was ruled the ACLU lacked standing in the case, and Moore was allowed to keep his plaque up and continue his prayer tradition.

In 1999, Moore announced his campaign for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, largely focusing on his defense of the Ten Commandments and status as a defender of religion in the public sphere.

Surprising many, Moore won the seat, defeating sitting Alabama Associate Supreme Court Justice Harold See in the Republican primary. Moore went on to win the seat easily in the general election.

2000-2003

After his election, Moore began designing a monument that he said was meant to depict “the moral foundation of law.”

What was eventually unveiled in the summer of 2001 was a 5,280-pound, granite monument affixed with the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama state judicial building in Montgomery.

That fall, the ACLU, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, sued Moore for violating “the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.”

In November 2002, U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson ordered Moore to remove the Ten Commandments monument within 30 days, ruling that its placement violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Judge Thompson’s ruling was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals in July of 2003, and in August, Moore was again ordered to remove the monument. Again, he refused, appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

In November 2003, Moore was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary for “willfully and publicly” defying the orders of a United States District Court.

2012-2016

Nearly a decade after his removal, Moore was again elected as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012.

Moore’s next battle came in June of 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

In defiance of the ruling, Moore — who had already been battling a U.S. District Court that ruled the state’s marriage laws unconstitutional — ordered Alabama’s probate judges to continue enforcing the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

In September 2016, after numerous ethics complaints, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission found Moore guilty of six ethics charges in connection with his refusal to comply with “binding federal law”, and he was suspended for the remainder of his term on the Alabama Supreme Court.

2017

Moore announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April 2017, and his candidacy thus far indicates he has no desire to temper his controversial rhetoric or beliefs.

In speeches and radio appearances discovered by CNN, Moore has speculated as early as December 2016 that there was a “big question” about whether Barack Obama was a U.S. citizen.

In a speech at an Alabama church this past February, Moore suggested that the 9/11 terrorist attacks may have been the result of the U.S. turning away from God.

Just this week, Moore against caused controversy after he appeared to refer to Native Americans and Asians as “reds” and “yellows” in a campaign speech.

But despite his rhetoric, Moore has remained popular among many in Alabama, winning almost 40 percent of the vote in the first round of the Republican primary last month.

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