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Chief justice vows to fight monument removal order

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Whats up with this guy - does he not understand separation of state and religion??


Thursday, August 21, 2003 Posted: 4:20 PM EDT (2020 GMT)

Chief Justice Roy Moore spoke to a supportive crowd outside the Alabama Judicial Building Thursday.

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) -- Saying "I cannot violate my conscience," Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore told a crowd of enthusiastic supporters Thursday that he would continue to defy a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state's Judicial Building rotunda.

Speaking outside the Judicial Building, Moore also said he was disappointed with the eight justices on Alabama's state Supreme Court, who earlier in the day sided with the federal order to remove the 5,000-pound granite monument.

Moore said he would continue his fight for what he called the "constitutional right to acknowledge God." Moore said he would turn again to the U.S. Supreme Court for a ruling acknowledging that right.

The announcement by Moore extended a day of dramatic events. Early in the morning a screen had been temporarily placed around the monument. Later in the morning, the state's Supreme Court justices announced their decision to overrule Moore and issued orders for the monument's removal from public view.

"The refusal of officers of this court to obey a binding order of a federal court of competent jurisdiction would impair the authority and ability of all of the courts of this state to enforce their judgments," the eight associate justices announced.

The associate justices wrote that they are "bound by solemn oath to follow the law, whether they agree or disagree with it," The Associated Press reported.

A federal judge had ruled the monument violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion and must be removed from its public place in the rotunda. The judge had set the end of Wednesday a deadline.

Alabama's senior associate justice, Gorman Houston, said last week the remainder of the court would take "whatever steps are necessary" to avoid a threatened $5,000-a-day contempt fine.

On Wednesday Moore vowed to keep the monument in the rotunda of the state building, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to become involved in the case after it rejected Moore's emergency plea for a stay of the federal judge's order to remove the statue.

Before Thursday's action by the justices, Alabama State Attorney General Bill Pryor had said officials were prepared to remove the 3-foot-tall granite monument "very soon."

The monument was ordered removed from the judicial building by the end of the day Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson of Montgomery, or else the state would face fines. In his ruling, Thompson said that by being in public view on pubic land, the monument violates the constitutional ban on government promotion of religion.

Moore accused Thompson of "abuse of power," "callous disregard to the people of this state" and "threatening to drain huge amounts of public funds from the state of Alabama" because of the cost of the ongoing legal battle.

At the center of the storm: The monument in Montgomery.

Wednesday evening, more than two dozen protesters supporting Moore were arrested in the rotunda, after they refused police orders to disperse from the monument.

The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed in October 2001 by three organizations on behalf of three Alabama lawyers who often had business at the judicial building and said the monument offended them. Thompson ruled in their favor last year.

Moore appealed the decision, but in July the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, ruled unanimously that Moore violated the constitutional separation of church and state by installing the monument.

The court's ruling compared Moore to segregationist Southern governors of the past who refused to integrate college campuses even after federal court orders to do so -- and predicted that if Moore appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court he would lose. Moore told CNN that any comparison to George Wallace, the four-term Alabama governor who opposed integration of Alabama public schools, was unfounded.

"Wallace stood in the doorway to keep people out," Moore said. "We're trying to keep God in. Wallace stood for division. We're standing for unity."

Moore said he would take on other state officials who stand by Thompson's decision. "Each of them has also taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States."

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