Commandments Judge Suspended

Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended by a judicial ethics panel Friday for his refusal to obey a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building rotunda.

Moore was automatically suspended with pay when the nine-member Judicial Inquiry Commission referred the ethics complaint against Moore to the Court of the Judiciary, which holds trial-like proceedings and can discipline and remove judges.

Ruby Crowe, an assistant clerk working with the court, said Moore will have 30 days to respond.

Moore met with the commission earlier as about 100 of his supporters, several blocks away at the federal courthouse, ripped and burned a copy of U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson's order for the monument's removal.

Moore said he told the commission that he upheld his oath of office by acknowledging God. Moore has said Thompson has no authority to tell the state's chief justice to remove the monument.

Thompson ruled last year that the monument, installed by Moore in a highly visible public spot in the state building, violates the constitution's ban on government promotion of a religious doctrine. When Moore refused to move it, eight associate justices overruled him and ordered it out of the rotunda.

Thompson said the monument could be moved to a private place in the building.

Moore, who installed the monument in the rotunda of the judicial building two years ago, contended in an interview with the CBS News Early Show that a federal judge has no authority to make him remove it.

"This case is not about a monument and not about politics. It's about the acknowledgement of God," Moore said. "The judge himself said in closing arguments before the court, that the issue is, 'Can the state acknowledge God?'"

The monument remained in the rotunda Friday as court officials discussed where in the building the 5,300-pound granite marker could be moved and given proper security.

Moore had no immediate comment.

Stephen Glassroth, a Montgomery lawyer who filed the ethics complaint, said he had not been contacted by the commission Friday, but added that the case is properly before the Court of the Judiciary.

"I respect whatever it is that they do," he said.

The Court of the Judiciary, currently made up of four judges, three lawyers and two non-lawyers, has handled numerous judicial ethics cases.

Meanwhile, attorneys who sued to get the monument out of the rotunda put their contempt filing against Moore on hold, now that Alabama Supreme Court associate justices have agreed to move the marker.

Moore supporters' around-the-clock vigil near the monument continued in downtown Montgomery. They have prayed, sung hymns, preached and kept an eye on the monument through the building's glass doors since Wednesday night, the deadline Thompson gave Moore to move the monument.

On Friday, about 100 protesters moved from the steps of the judicial building to a sidewalk in front of the federal courthouse, where Thompson works. Some ripped to pieces and burned a copy of Thompson's ruling. Demonstrators also held a mock trial, in which Thompson was charged with breaking the law of God.

"We hold you, Judge Thompson, and the United States Supreme Court in contempt of God's law," said Flip Benham, director of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

Inside the state judicial building, court officials were trying to determine where the monument would go and when it would be moved.

Ayesha Khan, an attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of the groups seeking removal of the monument, said Thompson told the parties in a conference call Friday that he would schedule another conference call for late next week. She said plaintiffs would drop their request to hold Moore in contempt, or fine the state, if the monument is moved by then.

"Our concern all along has been compliance with the Constitution. Once the monument has been removed, our concerns will have been addressed," she said.

Khan said Attorney General Bill Pryor, speaking for the eight associate justices who overruled Moore, told Thompson that building officials were looking for the best location for the monument and considering security problems that might occur because of the ongoing demonstrations.

Thompson's order gave the option of moving the monument to Moore's office. But Khan said she asked Moore during a deposition about moving it to his office and he said the monument was too heavy.

An organizer of pro-Moore demonstrations, Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, said Friday the demonstrations will continue.

He said five protesters will kneel in front of each of two exits from the building to keep the monument from coming out.

"Our message is clear. We are going to peacefully block the way if they try to move it," Mahoney said.

One of the demonstrators, retired Birmingham school teacher Murray Phillips, said she knows the monument will probably be gone from the rotunda soon.

"I'm upset, but I'm not surprised. At least I am going to be able to say to my grandchildren that at least I tried to do something," Phillips said.