Alabama state Chief Justice Roy Moore distanced himself from a white supremacist group cited as an influence by Charleston terrorism suspect Dylann Roof.
"I have spoken to many groups during the past 30 years about acknowledging God in our law and government," Moore told the Birmingham News. "I did not consider the Council of Conservative Citizens to be a 'white supremacist' group when I spoke to them 20 years ago, and I presume neither did Senator Trent Lott, Alabama Governor Guy Hunt, Mississippi Governor Fordice or many others who have done so in the past."
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Roof said in his online "manifesto" that he found "pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders" upon visiting the group's website. The SPLC has designated the council -- a reconfigured version of anti-desegregation groups dating back to the 1950s and 60s -- as a hate group.
The council has denounced Roof's fatal attack against nine people in a church last week while defending its content, stating, "The CofCC is one of perhaps three websites in the world that accurately and honestly report black-on-white violent crime, and in particular, the seemingly endless incidents involving black-on-white murder."
Buzzfeed reported that Moore spoke at the CCC's "semi-annual national conference" in 1995, when he drew national attention for posting a copy of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom while he was working in the state's 16th Circuit Court. There appears to be no public transcript of his remarks at the event.
Moore defended his appearance in part by pointing out that he was given an award by the the Coalition of African-American Pastors for "traditional and biblical marriage."
"I obviously highly regard the fundamental principle stated in the Declaration of Independence that 'all men are created equal,'" he told the News. "I resent any efforts to disparage my commitment to that principle and to attack my message of family, faith and freedom."
He did not mention that, while accepting the award, he compared support for marriage equality to backing segregation, arguing, "Marriage isn't based on love. Marriage is based on the law."