MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The same federal judge who ordered a Ten Commandments monument (search) removed from plain view at the Alabama Judicial Building (search) has agreed to hear a lawsuit refiled by supporters of the 5,280-pound marker.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in Montgomery will listen to claims by a Christian radio talk show host and a pastor that forced removal of the monument violated the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.
The lawsuit was initially dismissed by another federal judge in Mobile Wednesday and refiled Thursday in Montgomery.
More than 1,000 supporters of the controversial monument held a rally Thursday in hopes of bringing it back.
Chief Justice Roy Moore (search), who installed the 5,280-pound monument, said he was skipping the rally, the largest yet of the weeklong vigil, because he doesn't want supporters to make the fight about him rather than about the public acknowledgment of God the monument in the rotunda represented.
"I don't want people to lose sight of what this is about," Moore said. "What this issue is about is the acknowledgment of God and that issue has never been decided."
Christian evangelist and national radio talk show host Dr. James Dobson (search) led the rally instead.
"I came here to make a statement about what we all believe. We're in a great moral struggle of our own. It can be said that people of faith are being sent to the back of the bus -- and we're not gonna go there," Dobson said, comparing the struggle to that of Rosa Parks (search), which also took place in Montgomery.
Dobson also mentioned a statistic that 77 percent of Americans support the controversial monument.
Dobson was introduced by Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition (search). Former presidential candidate Alan Keyes was also in attendance.
Earlier Thursday, supporters of Moore prayed for the return of the marker, which was wheeled from the rotunda Wednesday morning to comply with a federal court order.
Moore has promised an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to restore the monument he installed two years ago.
Thompson of Montgomery ruled last year that the monument violates the constitution's ban on government endorsement of a religious doctrine.
Moore was suspended by a judicial ethics panel when he refused to obey Thompson's order to move the monument. Under the threat of $5,000 daily fines on the state, the eight associate Supreme Court justices ordered the monument removed.
Asked why he expected others to disobey the law, which led to his own suspension under judicial ethics charges, Moore replied: "I was saddened and dismayed that state officials were so anxious to follow the dictates of an unlawful order and move the monument into a hallway 50 feet away to hide its contents, to hide the truth."
Moore contends the federal judge has no authority to tell Alabama's chief justice to remove the monument.
Where's the Monument?
Building manager Graham George said the monument was in "a private storage area," declining to elaborate or say if the public would be able to see it.
Attorney General Bill Pryor said Wednesday he thinks the state has met the requirements of the court order, but he declined to give details on where the monument will remain. A Friday conference call will determine if the state is now in compliance with the order.
Pryor defended the removal of the monument, and is overseeing the prosecution of Moore on the ethics charge, which will be heard before the seven-member Court of the Judiciary. The Court of the Judiciary has the power to discipline and remove judges.
Moore has not yet filed his response to the charges, but has said he did nothing more than obey his oath.
Cheers and Jeers
Protesters also turned their attention to Washington. The Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the Washington-based National Clergy Council, said his organization is pushing federal legislation to protect public displays of the Ten Commandments. Mahoney called on President Bush to speak out on the case.
Asked about the president's view of the controversy, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said: "It is important that we respect our laws and our courts. In some instances the courts have ruled that the posting of Ten Commandments is OK. In other circumstances they have ruled that it's not OK. In either case, there is always opportunity for appeal of courts' decisions."
Meanwhile, in neighboring Mississippi, Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Republican gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour said they want the monument if Alabama does not. Musgrove said he would display it in the Capitol for a week, and hoped other states would do the same. Barbour said he'd like to have it for the governor's mansion.
But some supported the removal.
"This is a tremendous victory for the rule of law and respect for religious diversity," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "Perhaps Roy Moore will soon leave the bench and move into the pulpit, which he seems better suited for."
Fox News' Jonathan Serrie and The Associated Press contributed to this report.