Supporters file lawsuit to block removal of Alabama monument

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Supporters asked a federal court Monday to block the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building while the judge who put the marker there said he's up against those who "are offended at looking at God's words."

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.

U.S. District Judge William Steele set a hearing for Wednesday.

Chief Justice Roy 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.

In a brief speech Monday, Moore told a cheering crowd he would fight to return to his elected position and said the case against him is based not on something he did wrong but because "I've kept my oath."

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, 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.

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