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Nation

Judge vows to defy order to remove monument

| Friday, Aug. 15, 2003

Defying a federal court order, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court said Thursday that he will refuse to remove a granite monument that is inscribed with the words of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama State Judicial Building in Montgomery.

"Alabama will never give up its right to acknowledge God," Chief Justice Roy Moore declared as he stood in front of the 5,280-pound display.

Moore also accused U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, who has ordered the monument removed by Wednesday, of "callous disregard for the people of Alabama" and challenged the authority of federal courts to interfere with the state's legal system.

"They have no power, no authority, no jurisdiction to tell the state of Alabama that we cannot acknowledge God as the source of our law," he said.

Moore said that he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court today to direct Thompson to withdraw his order to remove the monument. He said he also plans to appeal to the Supreme Court a federal appeals court ruling last month that upheld Thompson's order and compared Moore's stance in the case to the defiance of such pro-segregation, southern governors as George Wallace of Alabama and Ross Barnett of Mississippi.

Thompson had no public comment on Moore's statement, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. But Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor issued a statement saying that he would "exercise any authority provided to me" to bring the state into compliance with the federal court order.

"I will not violate nor assist any person in the violation of this injunction," Pryor said.

Thompson has said that fines of about $5,000 a day could be imposed against the state if his order is not carried out by the Wednesday deadline. He also issued official notifications of the order to 13 other state officials, including Pryor and Gov. Robert Riley.

Moore's assault on what he called Thompson's "unlawful dictates" and his "abuse of power" was the latest episode in a colorful judicial career in which the Ten Commandments has figured prominently. As an Alabama circuit court judge, he placed a hand-carved, wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments behind the bench in his courtroom, an action that sparked several lawsuits.

In his 2000 campaign for the post of chief justice of the supreme court, Moore depicted himself as the "Ten Commandments Judge."

Moore had the Ten Commandments monument installed in the rotunda of the state judicial building on the night of July 31, 2001. The installation was filmed by Coral Ridge Ministries, an evangelical Christian media organization that has used proceeds from the sale of the film to pay Moore's legal expenses in the case.

Thompson ruled last November that the installation of the monument in the rotunda, where it is visible to all visitors to the judicial building, violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. A three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit unanimously affirmed Thompson's ruling last month.

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