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Ten Commandments Lawsuit Filed

the Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the Alabama State Judicial Building in Montgomery, Ala.
AP
Their numbers steadily growing, supporters of the Ten Commandments monument have filed a last-ditch lawsuit to prevent its apparently imminent removal from the Alabama Judicial Building.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed in Mobile on Monday, at least 300 protesters were gathered at the judicial building in Montgomery. There, they heard Chief Justice Roy Moore speak publicly for the first time since a state judicial ethics panel suspended him for disobeying a federal court order to remove the 5,300-pound monument.

The crowd grew even larger Monday evening as supporters rallied for the seventh straight night, though the monument was still expected to be removed at any moment.

"In our hearts and our minds, we know that we are winning," said Greg Sealy, director of an inner city mission in Montgomery. "And the word of the Lord is getting out."

Moore, who installed the monument in the rotunda of the state judicial building two years ago, promised to fight an ethics investigation and return to his job. In a brief speech outside the building, he said the case against him is based not on something he did wrong "but because "I've kept my oath."

A state judicial panel charged Moore with six violations of canons of judicial ethics when he refused to obey a federal court order to remove the 5,300-pound monument from its public site in the rotunda. Associate justices have overruled Moore and ordered it out, with removal expected soon this week.

A lawsuit, filed in federal court in Mobile on behalf of a Christian radio talk show host and a Tallassee pastor, says removal of the monument would violate the constitution's protection of freedom of religion. It seeks a temporary restraining order to block state officials from removing the marker.

U.S. District Judge William Steele set a Wednesday hearing on the suit.

Speaking to the crowd in Montgomery, Moore said those who want the monument removed "are offended at looking at God's words."

"I have acknowledged God as the moral foundation of our law," said Moore. "It is my duty. Should I keep back my opinion at such a time as this? For fear of giving offense? I should consider myself guilty of treason and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven."

Wiping sweat from his brow as he spoke under a broiling sun, Moore at one point cited the famous phrase of Patrick Henry: "Give me liberty or give me death." His supporters shouted, "We love you!" and "God bless you, Judge Moore!"

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the lawsuit filed in Mobile is "without merit and stands no chance of being seriously entertained by a court of law."

"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 organization has sought to remove the monument.

That argument is underscored by Larry Darby, an atheist and monument opponent who dropped by the protest site Monday.

"Roy Moore has made a mockery of the judicial system," Darby told CBS News. "He has disgraced Alabama. He has disgraced the rule of law."

Minutes after the Mobile lawsuit was announced, police blocked off the front of the judicial building with metal barricades. Building superintendent Graham George said they were erected to prevent protesters from leaning dangerously against the building's large windows and glass doors, where they've gathered for the last week. The organizers agreed to cooperate.

The monument is expected to be removed from the rotunda this week, though at least one company contacted about removing it declined the job. Clark Memorial, a Birmingham company that built and moved the monument into the building, declined to take it out for business and personal reasons, company vice president Charles Tourney said Monday.

But even if workers begin to remove the monument, there was little likelihood the granite marble monument would be out of the building immediately.

When the Clark Memorial installed the monument, it took some 11 hours to get it settled into its space in the judicial building rotunda.

Also, the federal court order requiring the monument's removal allows for the monument to be taken to another, private location in the building, out of view of the general public.