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Panel Ousts Judge for Refusal To Remove Ten Commandments

By Jeffrey Gettleman

The New York Times -- MONTGOMERY, Ala.

A special ethics panel on Thursday ousted Alabama’s chief justice, Roy S. Moore, who was lionized by the religious right for his refusal to remove a titanic monument of the Ten Commandments he put in the lobby of the building housing the state Supreme Court.

The head of the ethics panel, William Thompson, said he and his colleagues were given little choice because “the chief justice placed himself above the law” by adamantly defying a federal court order to remove the monument.

Moreover, Thompson said, “the chief justice showed no signs of contrition for his actions.”

Indeed, just minutes later, Moore strode out of the courthouse into a crush of his supporters and announced, “I have absolutely no regrets.”

“We fought a good fight,” he said. “We kept the faith. But the battle is not over. The battle to acknowledge God is about to rage across the country.”

The crowd exploded in cheers and chanted, “Roy Moore for Senate! Roy Moore for president!”

Moore, whose popularity seems to swell at each turn in this controversy, was coy about his next move, but implied that he would appeal.

That “brings on a whole host of delightfully interesting legal issues,” because that appeal would go to Moore’s former colleagues on the state Supreme Court, said John Wilkerson, a spokesman for the Alabama judiciary.

Ever since 1995, when Moore rose from obscurity after he was sued by civil liberties groups for placing a homemade plaque of the Ten Commandments on the wall of his rural Alabama courtroom, his supporters have tried to paint the issue as God versus the unbelievers and Alabama versus “the feds.”

But in the end, it was a panel of Alabamians from across the state -- eight men and one woman, Democrats and Republicans, lawyers, judges, a county commissioner and the director of a nonprofit organization -- who ruled that Moore had to go -- after opening the proceedings with a prayer.