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Ten Commandments monument moved

New poll says Americans disapprove of federal court order

Workers move the monument Wednesday.
Workers move the monument Wednesday.

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The Ten Commandments monument is removed from the Alabama state judicial building in Montgomery.
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CNN's David Mattingly on Chief Justice Roy Moore's vow to keep the monument in place.
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MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) -- Only one in five Americans approve of the federal court order under which workers removed the Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of Alabama's state judicial building Wednesday, according to a new poll.

The new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll found 77 percent of the 1,009 Americans interviewed earlier this week disapproved of U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson's order to remove the monument.

Thompson ruled that Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's placement of the 2.6-ton granite monument in the state building two years ago violated the U.S. Constitution's principle of separation of religion and government.

"It is a sad day in our country when the moral foundation of our law and the acknowledgment of God has to be hidden from public view to appease a federal judge," said Moore, suspended by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission last week for refusing to obey Thompson's order.

Workers removed the monument about 9 a.m. (10 a.m. EDT), nearly a week after Thompson's deadline passed, and rolled it into a back room out of public view.

Outside the building, about 150 of Moore's supporters vowed to keep fighting to get the monument restored. Christian Defense Coalition director Pat Mahoney said supporters were "disappointed, but not discouraged."

"We don't view this as a defeat at all," Mahoney said. "We're still calling people to come to Montgomery to take a look at where the 10 Commandments once stood."

Moore's case has become a magnet for religious conservatives around the country. Organizers say protesters have arrived in Montgomery from as far away as Alaska.

"I believe that this is going to be a ripple effect across our nation -- at least that's my hope," said Phillip Nunn, who brought his family from Georgetown, Kentucky.

A federal judge in Mobile Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit by the Christian Defense Coalition seeking to keep the monument in place.

The 17-page ruling from U.S. District Judge William Steele did not address the merits of the complaint but said the proper venue for the case was Montgomery.

"If the court were to grant the plaintiffs the relief they seek and order the defendants not to remove the monument, chaos would ensue," Steele wrote.

'Church and state' issues

Moore and his supporters say 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's guarantee of free exercise of religion.

But a lawsuit filed after its installation argued the massive stone marker constituted a government endorsement of Christianity.

"He said that he placed this monument here to acknowledge the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men, and that's pretty much it," said civil rights lawyer Morris Dees, whose Southern Poverty Law Center was one of the plaintiffs that sought the marker's removal.

"He said that all the little quotes around the bottom -- the things that have the word God in them by various historical figures -- weren't there for the purpose of making it historical but to show that the Ten Commandments sitting on top of the monument was recognized as the supreme law of the land."

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called Wednesday's action "a tremendous victory for the rule of law and respect for religious diversity."

"Perhaps Roy Moore will soon leave the bench and move into the pulpit, which he seems better suited for," Lynn said in a written statement. His organization was among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that sought the monument's removal.

With Thompson threatening to fine the state $5,000 a day for defying his order, Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor and Gov. Bob Riley refused to back Moore.

Both men are fellow Republicans and self-professed conservative Christians who supported the monument's installation, but they said Moore was bound to obey Thompson's order.

Pryor has been nominated to a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush, who Mahoney said has been "disturbingly silent" on the issue.

The White House previously has described the Alabama case as an issue for the state and its citizens, because the monument was placed in a state courthouse.

Spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Wednesday that courts have ruled both ways on public displays of the Ten Commandments, but she called on Americans to "respect our laws and our courts."

Supporters have threatened to rally opposition to state elected officials who went along with the monument's removal and to boycott the company that did the work.

"I think they're going to be sorry they cooperated with this act," said the Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council.

Moore was a circuit judge in Etowah County, northeast of Birmingham, in the late 1990s when he fought a lawsuit seeking to remove a wooden plaque depicting the commandments from his courtroom.

The legal battle propelled him to statewide office in 2000, when the Republican jurist was elected chief justice after campaigning as the "Ten Commandments Judge."

In suspending Moore, the Judicial Inquiry Commission charged Moore with six ethics violations. The case has been referred to the state Court of the Judiciary, which could punish Moore or even remove him from the bench. Moore has 30 days to respond to the complaint.

CNN correspondents Brian Cabell, David Mattingly and John King contributed to this report.

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