MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Thousands of people, including Christian families and long-haired bikers for Jesus, rallied yesterday to support a judge who refuses to remove a display of the Ten Commandments over his bench.
The demonstration for Judge Roy Moore turned into a litany against liberal courts, abortion, television and civil libertarians.
With Confederate flags and countless posters of the Ten Commandments waving overhead, Moore told the crowd, "Your presence today will send a message across this nation. That message is clear: We must - nay, we will - have God back in America again."
An Alabama court has found that Moore's display of the Christian tenets violates the Constitution by promoting one religion in a government setting. Moore is appealing, and Gov. Fob James has threatened to call out the National Guard and state troopers if anyone tries to remove Moore's plaque.
The judge, a Baptist, invites others to pray with him in court - as long as they're not Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist. "We are not a nation founded upon the Hindu god or Buddha," he said earlier.
Organizers said Capitol police estimated the crowd at 20,000 to 25,000 people.
One man flew in from California to be part of what he described as a new wave of Christian activism.
"All Judge Moore is asking for is to acknowledge God; he's not asking to proselytize," said Mark Rizzo, an auto-shop owner from Riverside, Calif. "He clearly is not trying to establish a national religion."
"Maybe this will be a wake-up call to America as it slips morally, economically and, most of all, spiritually," said Christian biker Mike Wiyugel of Tupelo, Miss., wearing a black leather jacket and fringed chaps.
A handful of opponents who accuse Moore of fostering religious intolerance debated his supporters.
Log-truck driver Wayne Willis said the judge's highly publicized fight is making it tougher to be one of only a handful of Jews in the southeast Alabama town of Troy.
"Just last week a boy held my boy's arm behind his back and tried to break it. He said he did it because he was Jewish," Willis said.