MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Supporters of the Ten Commandments monument asked a federal court Monday to block its removal from the Alabama Judicial Building, where barricades were erected to keep crowds from pressing against the glass front entrance.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore installed the monument two years ago and was suspended by a state judicial ethics panel last week for disobeying a federal court order to remove the 5,300-pound granite marker.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Mobile on behalf of a Christian radio talk show host and a pastor, says the forced removal of the monument would violate the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.

U.S. District Judge William Steele – the judge who ordered the monument removed – set a hearing for Wednesday on the lawsuit.

The federal courts have held that the monument violates the Constitution’s ban on government promotion of a religious doctrine.

Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, disputed that.

“We see the First Amendment to protect religious liberty, not crush religious liberty,” he told a crowd of more than 100 protesters.

Minutes after the lawsuit was announced, police blocked off the front of the building with metal barricades. Building superintendent Graham George said they were erected to prevent protesters from leaning dangerously against the large windows and glass doors, where they have gathered for the last week.

The monument is expected to be removed this week, though at least one company refused the job. Clark Memorial, a Birmingham company that built and moved the monument into the building, declined for business and personal reasons, vice president Charles Tourney said.

Moore contends it is his duty to acknowledge God in the rotunda of the state government building.

AP-ES-08-25-03 1800EDT

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