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A week before Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist swore in President George W. Bush to a second term as president last month, Justice Clarence Thomas presided over a little-noticed inauguration inside the Court building that has generated some controversy. In an invitation-only ceremony, Thomas on Jan. 13 gave the oath of office to newly elected Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, a close prot�g� and former aide to one-time Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Moore was ousted from office in 2003 for defying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the judicial building rotunda in Montgomery, Ala. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says that by associating himself with someone closely identified with Moore, Thomas was “thumbing his nose” at current church-state doctrine just weeks before the Supreme Court considers two cases on the constitutionality of displays of the Ten Commandments on public property. “If Thomas ever had any chance of becoming chief justice, this action should kill it,” says Lynn. Parker declines to be interviewed about the event, stating through a spokesman, “I was honored that Justice Thomas would swear me in, but it was a private ceremony. I will continue to treat it as such out of respect for him.” How did the high court event come about? In a statement issued on the day he was sworn in, Parker said, “Shortly after I was elected, I requested to be sworn in by Justice Thomas because if anyone symbolizes courage under fire, it’s Justice Clarence Thomas. He is a man who stands up for what he believes and defends our Constitution even when viciously attacked.” Parker continued, “I greatly admire him for his tenacious adherence to the original intent interpretation of the Constitution and strict statutory construction.” The statement said the ceremony was attended by “a small group of friends and family.” The following day, Parker was back in Montgomery for a second, less official swearing-in by none other than Moore himself. “I have been doubly blessed to have been sworn into office by two heroes of the judiciary,” Parker said in a statement. In remarks he gave after his second swearing-in, Parker reported that the day before, Thomas “admonished us to remember that the work of a justice should be evaluated by one thing and one thing only — whether or not he is faithful to uphold his oath, an oath which, as Justice Thomas pointed out, is not to the people, not to the state, and not to the constitution, but an oath which is to God Himself.” Parker continued, “I stand here today, humbled by this charge, but a grateful man who aspires to adhere to that tradition embodied in the sentiments spoken to me yesterday by Justice Clarence Thomas, and the commitment to our Founders’ vision of authority and the rule of law personified by Chief Justice Roy Moore.” Parker concluded, “May we boldly proclaim that it is God, Jesus Christ, who gives us life and liberty. May we, as justices who have taken oaths to our God, never fear to acknowledge Him. And may the Alabama Supreme Court lead this nation in our gratitude, humility, and deference, to the only true source of law, our Creator.” Lynn of Americans United says Thomas’ agreement to swear in Parker is “a clear signal from Thomas that he condones religiously based defiance of the federal courts by state officials. Parker is known for only one thing — his association with Commandments [and] Judge Roy Moore. By swearing in Parker, Thomas is saluting an extreme version of states’ rights.” Thomas declines to comment, but John Eastman, a former Thomas clerk who is now professor at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, Calif., dismisses Lynn’s criticism: “I applaud Justice Thomas for not shying away from swearing in someone who happens to believe in God.”

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