March 14th, 2012
07:03 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN)–Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice made famous by a Ten Commandments monument, is one step closer to getting his old job back. Moore won 50.14% of the vote on Tuesday in the Republican primary for the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
Moore appears to have narrowly avoided a runoff by capturing more than 50% of Republican voters. The state Republican Party has a week to certify the vote but Moore and his campaign are proceeding as if there will not be a runoff.
"We need leadership in the legal branch," Moore told CNN by phone after fielding congratulatory calls from local officials.
Moore held the job of Chief Justice from 2001 to 2003 but was forced out when he defied a federal order to remove a 2.6 ton stone monument of the Ten Commandments he had placed at the courthouse.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ordered Moore to remove the monument, saying at the time it constituted an endorsement of religion thus violating the First Amendment.
In November 2003, the 9-member Alabama judicial ethics panel voted unanimously to remove Moore from office. The ethics panel said they made their decision because Moore had put himself above the law by "willfully and publicly" flouting the order to remove the monument from the state judicial building's rotunda.
"I was removed by a judicial panel, not the judge who made the order," Moore noted on Wednesday, saying he was never held in contempt by the judge who made the order nor had any recourse for appeal and called the ethics panel a "tribunal."
Moore's case became a rallying point for Christians who felt under sedge by legal system they said was bent on the removal of God from the public square.
"God has chosen this time and this place so we can save our country and save our courts for our children," Moore said at the height of the controversy.
Today, Moore maintains the monument's placement was constitutionally appropriate. "There's nothing in the first amendment that prohibits the display of religious objects," he said.
But Moore said if he wins in the general election, don't expect to see monument return to the judicial building.
"I don't have any intention of bringing the monument because that will confuse the issue," he said. At issue for him is the acknowledgement of God and he added, "I will continue to acknowledge the sovereignty of God."
In Alabama, Supreme Court Justices are publicly elected and serve six-year terms. There are no term limits, but there is an age limit.
In the primary Moore beat out sitting Chief Justice Charles Malone and Circuit Court Judge Charlie Graddick.
Moore said he and his wife rode their horses on Tuesday to their polling place. They were able to tie the horses to a tree when they went in to cast their ballot. Moore said he relished the chance for a ride in the country after spending the last eight weeks on the road campaigning and it "saved gas anyway."
Moore will face off against Democrat Harry Lyon, a lawyer from Pelham, Alabama in the general election in November.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.