(1st Add: Includes reaction from Focus on the Family Chairman Dr. James C. Dobson.)
(CNSNews.com) - A judicial panel Thursday ruled that Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore be removed from his position for disobeying a judge's orders to remove a Ten Commandments display from the state courthouse.
"In this case, the chief justice exhausted all of his legal remedies and was unsuccessful to stay the injunction issued by the federal district court. In defying that court order, the chief justice placed himself above the law," said Presiding Judge William Thompson.
In reaction to the ruling, Moore said he was removed from his job for acknowledging God. Moore pointed to Attorney General Bill Pryor's questions in his cross-examination of Moore.
Pryor asked Moore: "Your understanding is that the federal court ordered that you could not acknowledge God; isn't that right?" Moore answered: "Yes."
Pryor then asked: "And if you resume your duties as chief justice after this proceeding, you will continue to acknowledge God as you have testified that you would today?" Moore replied: "That's right."
"No matter what any official says?" Pryor asked Moore.
"Absolutely," Moore answered. "Without - let me clarify that. Without an acknowledgement of God, I cannot do my duties. I must acknowledge God. It says so in the constitution of Alabama. It says so in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It says so in everything I have read."
"The only point I'm trying to clarify, Mr. Chief Justice, is not why, but only that, in fact, if you do resume your duties as chief justice, you will continue to do that [acknowledge God] without regard to what any other official says; isn't that right?" Pryor asked Moore.
"Well, I'll do the same thing this court did with starting a prayer; that's an acknowledgement of God. Now, we did the same say thing that justices do when they place their hand on the Bible and say, 'So help me God,'" Moore answered.
"It's an acknowledgement of God. The Alabama Supreme Court opened with: 'God save the State and this Honorable Court.' It's an acknowledgement of God. In my opinion, which I have written many opinions, acknowledging God is the source - a moral source of law. I think you must," Moore added.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State applauded the panel's decision to remove Moore from office.
"Moore flagrantly announced his intention to violate a federal court order, made a mockery of the legal system and created an unseemly media circus," said Americans United Executive Director Barry Lynn in a statement.
"Today, he learned the results of that defiance. The Court of the Judiciary has served the cause of justice," Lynn said.
Focus on the Family Chairman Dr. James C. Dobson denounced Thursday's decision by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary removing Chief Justice Roy Moore from office.
"This decision is an insult to all people of faith, who are being told that the public acknowledgement of God is unconstitutional," Dobson said.
"Throughout this judicial charade, and throughout all the controversy leading up to it, Chief Justice Moore remained committed to his oath of office, to the Alabama Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, all of which include references to God.
Dobson called the decision "further proof that our federal judges are determined to excise every reference to God from the public square."
"In their hypocrisy, they ignore the fact that there are three depictions of the Ten Commandments and Moses in the U.S. Supreme Court building itself. Each day is opened with the phrase, 'God save the United States and this honorable court,'" Dobson said.
"References to God abound all over Washington, yet the liberal judges choose to look past these historic acknowledgements of the Creator and beat up on the people of Alabama and its duly elected chief justice," Dobson concluded.
Moore said he plans to discuss with his attorneys "what course to pursue in this action." He said he consulted with many state political and religious leaders and plans to make "an announcement next week which could alter the course of this country and the course of our state and our nation."
See Earlier Story:
Ten Commandments Judge Heads to 'Trial' (Nov. 12, 2003)
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