Alabama attorney general won't help chief justice violate order to remove Ten Commandments

Friday, August 15th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ The attorney general and Alabama Supreme Court associate justices are distancing themselves from the state's chief justice, who has pledged to defy a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state's judicial building.

Chief Justice Roy Moore said Thursday he had ``no intention'' of obeying the order to remove the monument from the building, where he moved it in the middle of the night in 2001. He has said that the Ten Commandments represent the moral foundation of American law.

Attorney General Bill Pryor said Thursday he would refuse to help Moore violate the court order, which could result in contempt fines of about $5,000 a day against the state. He declined to say what specific action he would take.

At the same time, Moore's colleagues on the state Supreme Court met to discuss whether they can invoke a state law that lets a majority of the nine justices overrule an administrative action by the chief justice.

Senior Associate Justice Gorman Houston said the justices ``will take whatever steps are necessary'' to make certain that the state of doesn't have to pay fines.

But the justices took no immediate action as Moore prepared to file his initial pleading Friday with the U.S. Supreme Court to stop any removal of the monument.

Meanwhile, attorneys suing to remove the monument filed a complaint Thursday with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission accusing Moore of violating judicial ethics by refusing to obey a court order.

Supporters cheered Moore's claim that a federal court doesn't have the legal authority to make a state judge remove the monument.

``It's so rare to find someone who would make a stand,'' said Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America, a national association of churches and pastors who have supported Moore.

Pryor said he personally believes the Old Testament laws can be displayed legally but that doesn't change his responsibility as attorney general.

``I have a duty to obey all orders of courts even when I disagree with those orders,'' Pryor said in a statement.

Moore's declaration came six days before the courts' Aug. 20 deadline for the 5,300-pound granite monument to be removed from the judicial building rotunda, where it is in clear sight of visitors coming in the main entrance.

With Christian groups planning several rallies over the next week to show support of the monument, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Barry Lynn, accused Moore of creating a circus out of the Ten Commandments issue.

``If Judge Moore can't in good conscience comply with a lawful federal court order, he ought to resign,'' Lynn said.

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