The fight over the Ten Commandments monument ordered removed from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building by a federal judge has come to a head as workers moved the two-ton Decalogue from its display area.
It took little more than an hour for three workers and a security guard to hoist the washing machine-sized granite cube onto a dolly and scoot it out of view of television cameras to an undisclosed location.
Monument of Ten Commandments
Seeking to head off any eruption of violent protest to the move, security guards sifted through the throngs of dismayed and angered defenders of “10 Commandments judge” Roy Moore gathered on the steps outside the building.
While many demonstrators knelt on the ground and prayed, others began chanting, “Put it back!”
“Get your hands off our God!” one man shouted as fellow protesters urged him to stay calm.
Vigil organizer, the Rev. Patrick Mahoney with the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition, pledges the protesters will remain peaceful.
Mahoney told Fox News the building manager informed him the monument was relocated to a back room of the building so that it would be out of view of the public. This “temporary” relocation is described as the first step to comply with the federal court order which was upheld by Moore’s eight associate justices last week.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled last year the monument violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
Thompson wrote in his opinion the monument was “nothing less than ‘an obtrusive year-round religious display.'”
Moore lost an appeal July 1 at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mahoney told vigil participants the monument, which comes in two pieces, had been taken apart and the top portion – which is engraved with the Ten Commandments as excerpted from the Book of Exodus in the King James Bible – was going to be put in storage. He was told he would be allowed to view the monument to ensure it had not been damaged.
“This is a tragic day for religious freedom and the First Amendment,” Mahoney said.
“It is a sad day in our country when the moral foundation of our laws and the acknowledgment of God has to be hidden from public view to appease a federal judge,” Moore said in a statement.
Opponents hailed the removal.
“This is a tremendous victory for the rule of law and respect for religious diversity,” the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told Fox News.
Lynn’s organization teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center to sue the state to have the monument removed. The Alabama lawyers argued it offends them and causes them to feel like “outsiders.”
“Perhaps Roy Moore will soon leave the bench and move into the pulpit, which he seems better suited for,” Lynn said.
Roy Moore speaking to supporters (Photo: Wsfa.com)
Moore, who installed the display August 1, 2001, without consulting his colleagues, was suspended Friday by a judicial ethics panel for refusing to comply with the federal court order. He told a cheering crowd Monday he would fight to return to his elected position as the state’s chief justice, declaring, “I’ve kept my oath.”
“We should be offended when the elected representatives of this state, the governor, attorney general, and the justices of this court fail to acknowledge God as the basis of our justice system, simply because one federal judge says we can’t,” he said in a reference to the contention of the plaintiffs.
Acting chief justice, Gorman Houston, who took over when Moore was suspended, issued another order yesterday directing the judicial building manager to remove the monument.
A district court hearing scheduled for this afternoon in Mobile, Ala., on a motion filed yesterday by the Christian Defense Coalition to keep the monument on display has been canceled. The lawsuit asserted the forced removal of the monument would violate the constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion.
Mahoney slammed the attorney general for moving the monument ahead of the court hearing, calling the action “utterly repulsive” and designed to “intimidate the federal judge.”
“They did not have to move this until Friday. They were not facing any fines, any sanctions, any other problems,” he complained.
Mahoney said the peaceful protest will continue through Sunday. Several hundred supporters maintained a vigil at the monument over the weekend, praying, singing hymns and reading Bible verses, according to the Birmingham News. Between 500 and 600 showed up Sunday night.
“We’re just at the starting line in this campaign,” said Mahoney who urged people to still come to Montgomery and join the protest. “Let every American come see. This is the future of the nation if we do not come now.”
WorldNetDaily reported yesterday prominent evangelical leader Dr. James Dobson urged his 3 million radio listeners nationwide to head to Montgomery in a show of support.
“It’s not just an Alabama issue, and it’s certainly not just [about] Justice Moore,” said Dobson, founder and chairman of Colorado-based Focus on the Family.
“There’s much more at stake here,” Dobson told listeners Monday. “This is part of a larger plan to remove every vestige of faith or reverence for God from the public square. That’s where this is headed.”
“We’re at a pivotal point in the history of this country,” Dobson said during a program featuring an interview with Moore. “Be a participant. Don’t sit on the sidelines while our basic freedoms are lost.”
Moore wrote a treatise on his battle to retain the monument in the July issue of Whistleblower magazine, WND’s monthly print publication.
In the August issue, entitled “LAW-LESS: Why many Americans fear attorneys and judges more than terrorists,” Roy Moore is the subject of an in-depth profile. Subscribe to Whistleblower magazine.