MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama's Chief Justice Roy Moore, facing criticism over a video posted on the website Raw Story Friday, said in an interview Monday that he believes the religious freedoms in the First Amendment apply to all faiths.
In the video, recorded at the Pastor for Life Function in Mississippi, Moore said the U.S. Supreme Court "has been deceived by one little word in the First Amendment called 'religion,'" and said his fight over a Ten Commandments monument -- which led to his removal as Chief Justice in 2003 -- was an attempt to define the term, which he claimed courts had resisted.
"They don't want to do that, because that acknowledges the creator God," Moore says in the video. "Buddha didn't create us. Mohammed didn't create us. It's the God of the Holy Scriptures. They didn't bring a Qu'ran on the Pilgrims' ship, the Mayflower."
The statement appeared to suggest that Moore, an outspoken proponent of conservative Christian beliefs, did not believe that non-Christians were covered by the religious protections in the First Amendment.
Moore, however, strongly denied that in a phone interview Monday, saying the speech was aimed at describing what he believed were the biblical foundations of the United States. The Chief Justice said First Amendment protections extend to everyone, regardless of their beliefs.
"It applies to the rights God gave us to be free in our modes of thinking, and as far as religious liberty to all people, regardless of what they believe," Moore said.
Moore, who served as a Military Police Company Commander during the Vietnam War, said he had "fought for this country" in defense of those rights.
The Chief Justice, re-elected to his office in 2012, has frequently argued that the Founding Fathers plan of government for the United States rested on a Judeo-Christian tradition. In the video of the speech, Moore quotes James Madison's 1785 "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments," where Madison wrote in part: "Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe."
"Let's get real," Moore said. "Let's start learning our history. Let's stop playing games."
Madison wrote the Memorial and Remonstrance in opposition to legislation that would allow the State of Virginia to pay "Teachers of the Christian Religion." Later, as President of the United States, Madison proclaimed a day of prayer and fasting during the War of 1812, but later regretted the move, writing that those proclamations "seem to imply and certainly nourish the erroneous idea of a national religion." Madison also appeared to have had reservations about chaplains in the nation's armed forces and in Congress.