Judge rules against Ten Commandments monument

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state's Judicial Building within 15 days.

The federal judge, who has ruled the 5,300-pound monument violates the constitutional ban on government promotion of religion, lifted a stay he had previously issued while Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore appealed.

Moore, whose stand was rejected by an appeals court, has said he will turn next to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson came a day after Moore filed a brief claiming Thompson did not have the authority to make him remove the black granite monument from the building's rotunda.

Thompson's order Tuesday said the monument must be moved from the public areas of the building by Aug. 20, but could remain in a private area, such as Moore's chambers. The building houses the Supreme Court chamber and offices of appeals court judges.

Thompson said he does not plan to take immediate action to remove the monument if Moore does not comply, but may fine the state each day that monument remains in place.

An attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of three groups that filed suit challenging the monument, said it is time for Moore to remove it.

"The monument is becoming a millstone around the neck of Alabama. It is time to let reason prevail over politics," Ayesha Khan said.

Tom Parker, an attorney for Moore, said they would respond after reviewing Thompson's latest order.

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