Judge pledges to protect Commandments monument
Federal court agrees to hear lawsuit against removal
MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) -- Suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore vowed to fight to keep his job and to keep a massive Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building's rotunda after police barricaded the building's doors Monday.
"I stand before the Court of the Judiciary because I've done my oath. I've kept my oath. I have acknowledged God as the moral foundation of our law," Moore told cheering supporters outside the building Monday afternoon.
Other Moore supporters filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in Mobile in a last-ditch bid to prevent the carved stone monument from being moved.
They argue that removing the monument would amount to a government endorsement of a "religion of non-theistic beliefs," according to the complaint.
U.S. District Court Judge William Steele has agreed to hear the case Wednesday at 3 p.m. (4 p.m. EDT).
Moore argues that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of the U.S. legal system and that forbidding the acknowledgment of the Judeo-Christian God violates the First Amendment.
"It's not about a monument," he said. "It's not about religion. It's about the acknowledgment of almighty God," he said.
Last week, Moore's colleagues on the Alabama Supreme Court overruled his defiance of a federal court order demanding the 2.6-ton granite monument's removal, and the state's Judicial Inquiry Commission suspended him from office.
Monday afternoon, police put up metal barricades to keep people who have gathered in support of Moore away from the building's glass doors.
"Christians are offended at many things in today's society," Moore told about 150 supporters. "They're offended at abortion, at sodomy in our streets, at kids getting killed in school.
"And yet, we seem to be ashamed at standing up and speaking the truth -- of acknowledging that we are created in the image of God and endowed by him with our rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," he said.
The Judicial Inquiry Commission charged Moore with six ethics violations for defying a federal court order to remove the monument.
One of Moore's lawyers, former state Supreme Court Justice Terry Butts, said the chief justice's defense team will "actively mount a very vigorous defense of the allegations that have been made against the chief justice."
Commission spokeswoman Margaret Childers said Moore has 30 days to respond.
The state's Court of the Judiciary could decide to punish Moore, and could even remove him from the bench.
Many backers waited outside the building through the weekend, threatening to block efforts to remove the monument.
Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said one company contacted about removing the monument has refused to do so, and he urged Moore's supporters to boycott any company that took the job.
"Today let it be known that any engineering company or any company that would transport furniture or move heavy materials, if you move this monument, we will call for a nationwide boycott of you," he said.
"We see the First Amendment to protect religious liberty, not crush religious liberty," Mahoney said.
Moore installed the monument in August 2001 without consulting the other justices.
Three Alabama lawyers who often had business at the judicial building sued, and U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that the monument was an unconstitutional promotion of religion.
Moore appealed the decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay Thompson's order demanding the monument's removal by midnight last Wednesday.
Moore refused to comply, prompting the state Supreme Court's other justices to overrule him.
With Thompson threatening to impose fines on the state of up to $5,000 a day, Moore's colleagues ordered the monument removed "as soon as practicable."