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Justice Suspended for Defying Court on Ten Commandments

By Jeffrey Gettleman

The New York Times -- MONTGOMERY, Ala.

Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended from the bench Friday for defying a federal court order to remove a 5,280-pound monument graven with the Ten Commandments that he had installed in the Alabama Supreme Court building.

Moore, who used the Ten Commandments issue to rise from obscurity in rural Alabama to the highest judgeship in the state, will face a trial by the state Court of the Judiciary, which ordered the suspension Friday and will decide whether Moore should lose his job permanently.

Meanwhile, the titanic slab of granite remained in the rotunda and continued to be a rallying point for hundreds of evangelical Christians.

Some marched with Bibles, some brandished cardboard cutouts of the Ten Commandments tablets and others sang out, “I shall not be moved!”

Moore made no public appearances Friday. But in a television interview before his suspension was announced, he said, “My dispute is with the federal courts who have intruded into state affairs, and we are taking this matter to the United States Supreme Court.”

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has already rejected one of his appeals and legal analysts said they did not expect it to side with Moore.

His critics praised the suspension.

“It’s perfectly appropriate because he openly and flagrantly violated a federal court order,” said Morris Dees, chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the civil liberties groups that argued that Moore had violated constitutional guarantees of the separation of church and state. “This is the beginning of the end.”

Not so, said others who predicted that the suspension would add to the swelling popularity of Moore, a Republican elected to the post. “This will only increase his martyrdom,” William Stewart, a political science professor at the University of Alabama, said.