(RNS) An Alabama judge who secretly placed a 5,280-pound version of the Ten Commandments in the lobby of the state judicial building could find himself on the other side of the bench after two lawsuits were filed that challenge his action.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore first gained national notice when he was a circuit judge who displayed a copy of the commandments in his Gadsden, Ala., courtroom. He extended the practice when he moved a monument of the holy laws in the middle of the night last summer to the judicial building's rotunda.

One lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of a Montgomery, Ala., attorney who believes the monument should be removed because it represents a state endorsement of religion, the Associated Press reported.

"We are a diverse nation and this is a time for us to celebrate that diversity instead of to push some people away," said Steve Glassroth, an attorney who often visits the building in Montgomery. "The monument celebrates a particular brand of religion."

The second case was filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, also on behalf of Alabama lawyers regularly doing business in the building.

"As a Christian minister I believe in the Ten Commandments, but I also believe in the separation of religion and government," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, in a statement. "This monument belongs in church, not the courthouse."

The AP reported that Scott Barnett, spokesman for Moore, said the judge had not seen the lawsuits and declined to comment.

C. 2001 Religion News Service
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