(CN) – State Senator Gerald Dial spent the last 14 years advocating for an amendment to the Alabama Constitution that would authorize schools and local governments to display copies of the Ten Commandments on state-owned property.
Now, just a week after Dial serves his last day as a legislator and closes his office door in Montgomery for the last time, voters will decide on Election Day whether to approve Dial's amendment.
The amendment is not designed to create a legal challenge, Dial said.
"Hopefully it doesn't go there,” the retiring lawmaker told Courthouse News. “It's unfortunate that we live in a time where you even have to put this on the ballot."
It is the first of two proposed amendments on the Alabama ballot this year that revive longstanding cultural and political flashpoints. The second proposed amendment targets abortion by affirming “that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.”
If passed, both constitutional amendments could lead to challenges in a federal judiciary altered by the Trump administration.
Dial began introducing the legislation around the time former judge and failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003 for installing a 2.6-ton Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama Justice Building, garnering national attention along the way.
But Dial told Courthouse News he pushed for the change because he heard his constituents concerned about prayers left unsaid at football games and acknowledgement of the Judeo-Christian God removed from the public square.
He said the measure would protect school districts, for example, from costly lawsuits.
If the amendment passes, Dial said officials who post the Ten Commandments can deflect legal challenges by saying, “Hey, dismiss the suit against me; I'm only following the constitution of the state of Alabama. The voters expressed their opinion that allows it to be placed in my school building and I'm doing that. And I made a choice to do that under the constitution and if you don't like it, you have to sue us on our constitution."
The proposed amendment specifies a defense of the measure would use no public dollars.
That’s where groups such as The Foundation for Moral Law – the nonprofit run by Moore and his wife Kayla – would come in.
“I've said on occasion that we would certainly defend it if called upon,” Moore said in a phone call with Courthouse News, “if the state wanted us to.”
Moore, who lost a race for a U.S. Senate seat in a special election last year, was accused by several women of sexual misconduct when he was in his 30s and they were in their teens.
Moore continues to deny the allegations. He pointed out he has filed three defamation lawsuits surrounding the allegations and is considering a fourth.
The Foundation of Moral Law, Moore said, was not focused on the Ten Commandments amendment because its focus is on legal issues, although he has mentioned it in his newsletter. Instead, the organization’s recent statements show it is tackling the issue of prayer before athletic events.