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Judge orders 10 Commandments monument removed | (UPI) -- A federal judge in Montgomery, Alabama ruled Monday that a 2 1/2-ton granite Ten Commandments monument must be removed from the lobby of the city's judicial building.

The monument was installed by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that the monument violates the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment and the principle of the separation of church and state.

"Based on the evidence presented during a weeklong trial and for the reasons that follow, this court holds that the evidence is overwhelming and the law is clear that the Chief Justice violated the Establishment Clause," Thompson ruled.

He gave the state 30 days to remove the monument and said Moore would foot the bill. Moore has said he would appeal the decision.

Thompson said his decision did not cover all instances of public display of the Ten Commandments and should not be construed that way.

"But, in announcing this holding today, the court believes it is important to clarify at the outset that the court does not hold that it is improper in all instances to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings; nor does the court hold that the Ten Commandments are not important, if not one of the most important, sources of American law," Thompson wrote.

He also said the separation of state and religion has benefited religions over the years.

Thompson wrote: "... the First Amendment gave 'preferred treatment' to religion, and, in particular, to Christianity, by assuring that there would be no governmental interference with, including even 'endorsement' of, it. In other words, as indeed history has shown, Christianity flourishes best when it is left alone by government."

The lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and several Montgomery attorneys who say they fear discrimination because they do not share Moore's religious beliefs.

Herb Titus of Coral Ridge Ministries, representing Moore, had argued that the lawsuit was part of an effort to "censor God."

Moore, a Baptist, is the same judge who put a wooden plaque he carved with the Ten Commandments on the wall of his courtroom after he was elected as a circuit judge in rural Etowah County in 1994.

He became chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2000, and on Aug. 1, 2001, he wheeled in the washing machine-sized monument during the middle of the night without consulting fellow justices.

Moore kept the display in his Etowah County courtroom, even after a circuit judge ruled the display was unconstitutional. He appealed the decision to the Alabama Supreme Court, which dismissed the ruling on technical grounds.

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