By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court cleared the way Wednesday for a Ten Commandments monument to be removed from an Alabama court building, but an attorney for the judge who installed the display said he would not move the monument.
Slideshow: Ala. Justice Fights to Display Commandments The justices rejected Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s emergency appeal, refusing to be drawn into a dispute over whether the monument violates the Constitution’s ban on government promotion of religion.
Moore installed the 5,300-pound stone monument in the rotunda of the judicial building in the state capital of Montgomery two years ago after being elected chief justice following a campaign in which he touted his support of the Ten Commandments.
The Supreme Court was Moore’s last hope to avoid a federal judge’s midnight Wednesday deadline to remove the display. One of Moore’s attorneys, Phillip Jauregui, said that the judge was sticking by his pledge to defy the order. “The statement that the chief made last Thursday still stands,” Jauregui said.
Other state officials could move the monument.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson has said he may fine the state about $5,000 a day for contempt if the display is not moved by the end of the day. Thompson was scheduled to have a conference call with attorneys in the case later this week.
Moore’s lawyers told justices in a filing that he should be allowed to “establish justice by acknowledging the guidance and favor of Almighty God, placed upon him by his oath of office and the Constitution of Alabama.”
The Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of such indoor and outdoor government displays. The justices did not rule Wednesday on legal arguments raised by Moore. The court said in a one-sentence order that his request for a stay was rejected.
It would be unusual for a Supreme Court order to be ignored.
“Every single level of the federal court system has now rebuffed him (Moore), you would think he would show some respect for the court’s order,” said Ayesha Khan, legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of the groups that sued over the display. “He’s always taken the position that he’s above the law.”
An appeals court had twice refused to give Moore a stay, setting up the plea at the high court.
“It’s not like somebody’s about to face execution, if the court doesn’t enter a stay the person will be dead and the appeal will be moot,” said David Frederick, a Washington attorney who specializes in Supreme Court practice. “If the Supreme Court were to decide it’s constitutional, it can always be put back.”
Moore already has asked the Supreme Court to consider whether Thompson overstepped his bounds in the case, and a second appeal of the ruling in the Ten Commandments case is expected. Those could take months to resolve.
In Alabama, supporters of Moore gathered on the judicial building steps and stopped to pray at times, while commandment opponents, anti-tax protesters and onlookers mingled near the front entrance to the building, which was ringed by television news satellite trucks.
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