BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A poll released Sunday found two-thirds of those surveyed believe the Ten Commandments should be displayed in the Alabama judicial building, but suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore's defiance of a court order to remove the 5,280-pound granite monument had less support.
Among the 600 registered voters surveyed last week, 68 percent supporting Moore's position that the Ten Commandments should be displayed on public property. Forty-nine percent said Moore, who was in Atlanta this weekend to speak on the issue, should not have defied U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson's order to remove the commandments monument from the judicial building rotunda.
Thompson ruled last year that the monument's display in the building's rotunda violated the Constitution's ban against government promotion of religion.
In a speech to a Christian group in Atlanta on Saturday, Moore called the separation of church and state a "fable," quoting often from biblical passages and America's founding fathers to prove the connection between religion and government.
"Thomas Jefferson uttered that phrase 'separation of church and state' on January 1 of 1802," he told a Promise Keepers convention of 10,000 men. "Two days later, he was in Congress listening to a Baptist minister, where they worshipped throughout his administration."
Moore called the order to remove the monument "tyranny," saying Christians would be "guilty of treason" if they failed to acknowledge God in their government.
The commandments poll was conducted Tuesday through Thursday for The Birmingham News and television stations FOX 6 in Birmingham, WHNT in Huntsville and WSFA in Montgomery.
Pollster Larry Powell of UAB said Moore has got a popular issue that's made him popular.
Asked their impressions of Moore, 63 percent rated him positively. He enjoyed favorable rating from whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans. Twenty-four percent had an unfavorable impression of the judge, and 13 percent were undecided or did not know who he was.
Forty percent said he was right to defy the court order, and 11 percent said they were unsure about that decision, which led to Moore's suspension as chief justice.
By defying the court, Moore "is pushing the edge," Powell said, "but they still like his basic stand."
A majority of Democrats, 51 percent, believed Moore was wrong to defy the order, while 36 percent believed he was right. Republicans were evenly divided, with 46 percent believing he was right and 46 saying he was wrong.
Fifty-nine percent of upper-income voters said Moore was wrong to defy the order, compared with 45 percent of low-income respondents.
"There is no mistaking it: This is the Bible Belt," said David LaNoue, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama. "Clearly, a majority of Alabamians of all groups support the commandments being displayed on public property."