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Deadline Passes for Alabama Justice to Remove Monument

By Jeffrey Gettleman

The New York Times -- MONTGOMERY, Ala.

Midnight came and went, but the rock did not roll.

By 12:01 Thursday morning, Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama was to have removed the 5,280-pound monument of the Ten Commandments that he secretly installed one night in the lobby of the State Supreme Court. A federal judge had ruled that the granite block, known as Roy’s Rock, violated the separation of church and state.

But Moore did not budge. And he had a lot of people right behind him. His monument has been like a magnet for Christian advocates, and as the night wore on its powers seemed to increase.

As the clock struck 12, the crowd assembled in front of the courthouse burst into “God Bless America.” The muggy plaza was clogged with dozens of little girls wearing Jesus T-shirts, bearded men with thick arms and Confederate flags on their backs, black people, white people, the young, the old, the in between, a man who walked from Texas dressed in a monk’s frock and another who drove from San Diego in a red truck with a sign that said “Shame on America.”

They were here to make sure that when the deadline elapsed no federal officers stormed the courthouse and wheeled away the monument.

Some, earlier on Wednesday, had even been arrested, including 66-year-old Karen Kennedy, who was handcuffed in her wheelchair.

By midnight, Kennedy was back. And a hero.

“Let’s hear it for this woman,” yelled the Rev. Pat Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition.

“That’s right,” Kennedy said from the courthouse steps. “I was cuffed for God.”

Moore was nowhere to be seen. On Wednesday he had said, “If they want to get the commandments, they’re going to have to get me first.”

Supporters are now calling him “the Moses of Alabama.”

On Wednesday, Moore lost a last-ditch appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, hurtling him head-on into a conflict with a federal judge who has threatened to make him pay $5,000 for every day that the Ten Commandments remain in public view.

Detractors say the whole thing smells like Alabama’s obstinacy of yesteryear, of the lost battles for states’ rights in the 1960s.

“He’s been even more flamboyant and stubborn than George Wallace when he made his stand in the schoolhouse door,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.