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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August, 2003, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
US commandments monument moved
Ten commandment monument being moved
The 'offending' monument is being removed from public view

Officials in the US state of Alabama have removed a controversial monument to the Ten Commandments from the court building in the state capital, Montgomery.

The move follows a ruling by a federal court that the display of the monument in a government building conflicts with the American constitution.

Hundreds of religious protesters are continuing their week-long vigil against the move and are demonstrating or holding prayers close by.

They are angry that the removal is taking place only a few hours before a district judge was due to hear their appeal.

As the monument was being wheeled away one demonstrator shouted: "Put it back, put it back".

"It is a lamentable day in Alabama and the United States," said Robert Schenck president of the National Clergy Council, a Washington-based Christian group.

Monumental controversy

But Larry Darby, Alabama state director of the American Atheists organisation, said: "It is about time... I'm only disappointed that it will not be out of the building and off of taxpayer property."

Police remove a protester from near the Ten Commandments monument
Protesters have been demonstrating against the move
The monument is being removed from public view, but remains inside the state judicial building.

The 2,400 kilogram (5,300-pound) slab had dominated the rotunda of the building ever since Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore installed it two years ago.

However, last year a federal judge ruled that the monument - nicknamed Roy's Holy Rock - violated the constitutional separation of church and state, and ordered its removal by 20 August.

Justice Moore had refused to comply. Last week the other justices on the Alabama supreme court voted to remove the monument, and the chief justice was suspended on charges of violating canons of judicial ethics.

Justice Moore rejects the accusation, saying the Ten Commandments feature in the seals of many states, as well as on the wall of the national supreme court.

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