Final days for Commandments monument
MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) -- The controversial Ten Commandments monument at the Alabama Judicial Building will be removed by the end of the week, the state's attorney general said Tuesday.
Attorney General Bill Pryor told CNN's "American Morning" that he believed the 2.6-ton granite monument was appropriately displayed but that he was obligated to carry out a federal court order requiring its removal. It will be gone before a scheduled Friday status conference on the court order, Pryor said.
"I'm not going to announce exactly when and how we're going to [remove it]," he said. "We have a plan in place, and it's going to be done very soon."
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was suspended for refusing to remove the statue, on Monday vowed to fight to keep his job and the monument in the judicial building's rotunda after police barricaded the building's doors.
"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 judicial building Monday afternoon.
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."
Moore installed the monument in 2001 without consulting his colleagues. Three Alabama lawyers then sued over its display, and U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson found it was an unconstitutional promotion of religion.
Moore appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high court refused to stay Thompson's order, which had demanded that the monument be removed by midnight August 20.
Moore refused to comply, prompting the state Supreme Court's other justices to overrule him. The state's Judicial Inquiry Commission suspended him from office last week.
Moore's attorney, Phillip Jauregui, said the courts are defying federal law, not his client.
"The issue in this case is whether Chief Justice Moore's placement of the monument in the building here constitutes Congress making a law respecting an establishment of religion," Jauregui told CNN's Paula Zahn. "Certainly it doesn't."
Richard Cohen, chief legal counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the monument's placement is a violation of law.
"It's a clear government endorsement or promotion of religion," he said. "Justice Moore has used the monument to promote his version of Christianity, and the government really can't play favorites when it comes to something so important as religion."
The Judicial Inquiry Commission has charged Moore with six ethics violations for defying a federal court order to remove the monument. Commission spokeswoman Margaret Childers said Moore has 30 days to respond to the ethics charges. The state's Court of the Judiciary could decide to punish Moore or even remove him from the bench.
Many of Moore's backers waited outside the state judicial building through the weekend, threatening to block efforts to remove the monument.
Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said one firm contacted about removing the monument has refused to do so, and he urged Moore's supporters to boycott any company that took the job.
The company that built the monument and put it in place two years ago refused to remove it, the attorney general said.
Hearing set for Wednesday
On Monday, Moore's supporters filed a federal lawsuit in Mobile in a last-ditch bid to prevent the stone carving from being moved. They argued that removing the monument would amount to a government endorsement of a "religion of non-theistic beliefs," according to the complaint.
U.S. District Judge William Steele has agreed to hear that case Wednesday afternoon.