Published August 26, 2003
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Espousing his reverence of God above "earthly authorities," Alabama's Chief Justice Roy Moore (search) said removing the Ten Commandments monument (search) from the state judicial building is just plain wrong.
"Should I keep back my opinions at a time like this?" he asked a crowd of his cheering supporters on Monday.
Moore installed the monument in the building's rotunda two years ago, and was suspended by a state judicial ethics panel last week for disobeying a federal court order to remove the 5,300-pound granite marker.
Moore argued Monday that Christians find many things offensive -- including abortion, sodomy and the bust of a Greek goddess in Montgomery's federal court building.
Moore likened himself to Patrick Henry before the Revolutionary War, saying he reveres God above all earthly authorities.
"Today I stand before you not because I've done anything wrong," he said to supporters. "I stand before you because I've kept my oath."
He said he was up against those who "are offended at looking at God's words."
Meanwhile, those defending Moore asked a federal court Monday to block the removal of the monument from the Alabama Judicial Building.
The lawsuit to block the monument's removal was filed in federal court in Mobile on behalf of a Christian radio talk show host and a pastor. It says a forced removal would violate the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion and "an affront to the Christian faith."
U.S. District Judge William Steele set a hearing for Wednesday.
Moore told supporters he would fight to return to his elected position.
The federal courts have held that the monument violates the Constitution's ban on government promotion of a religious doctrine.
Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition (search), disputed that.
"We see the First Amendment to protect religious liberty, not crush religious liberty," he told a crowd of more than 100 protesters.
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the lawsuit filed in Mobile is without merit.
"Over and over again Moore's supporters have offered up outlandish legal arguments to defend the justice's blatant promotion of religion in the state's judicial building," said Lynn, whose group has sought to remove the monument.
Minutes after the lawsuit was announced, police blocked off the front of the building with metal barricades. Building superintendent Graham George said they were erected to prevent protesters from leaning dangerously against the large windows and glass doors, where they have gathered for the last week.
The monument is expected to be removed this week, though at least one company refused the job. Clark Memorial, a Birmingham company that built and moved the monument into the building, declined for business and personal reasons, vice president Charles Tourney said.
Fox News' Jonathan Serrie and The Associated Press contributed to this report.