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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 August, 2003, 00:38 GMT 01:38 UK
US 'holy rock' judge suspended

Judge Roy Moore looks at his controversial Ten Commandments block
Judge Moore has become a hero of America's religious right

An Alabama judicial ethics panel has suspended the state's chief justice Roy Moore over his refusal to remove a granite monument to the Ten Commandments from his court house.

Mr Moore has vowed to appeal to the US Supreme Court to keep the monument in public view.

He was suspended with pay pending the examination of a complaint accusing him of misconduct for defying a federal court order to remove the monument.

Assessing the complaint, the Alabama judicial court will hold a trial-like proceeding. It has the power to discipline and remove judges.

Mr Moore had the monument installed at the court building in the state capital Montgomery in July 2001.

Mr Moore argues that the block acknowledges God as the foundation of the law.

Supporters

He has become a hero to the religious right in America - many have travelled to Alabama from other states to support him.

Supporters of Judge Moore at Alabama Judicial Building
Judge Moore's supporters are holding a round-the-clock vigil

The issue is polarising opinion between those who believe the monument violates the constitutional safeguards separating Church and state and those who believe it is their constitutional right to honour their God.

Crowds of people, praying and singing hymns, have remained at the court house.

The United States Supreme Court declined to intervene when Mr Moore earlier asked it to overturn a deadline for the monument to be removed by midnight Wednesday (0500 GMT Thursday).

God and law

A federal judge had ruled the monument violated the US constitution's ban on government establishment of religion and must be removed from its public place.

The ruling was backed by Alabama Supreme Court associate justices.

The BBC's David Bamford in Washington says most Americans are, by nature, religious even if separation of state and religion is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution.

He says the Declaration of Independence refers to God, every dollar bill states "In God We Trust" and a majority of people claim membership of a church, not least every recent president.

But for the last 30 years, the evangelical movement has become a driving force of the Republican right.

It is this politicisation of religion that has ignited bitter feuding around not just issues such as abortion and gay rights but also whether a courthouse in a Bible-belt state can display the Ten Commandments, our correspondent says.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Juliet Dunlop
"The two and a half tonne monument will be moved"



SEE ALSO:
US judge defends 'holy rock'
15 Aug 03  |  Americas
House of God just gets bigger
18 Jan 03  |  From Our Own Correspondent
US court bans school pledge
27 Jun 02  |  Americas


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