MONTGOMERY, Ala. – After two years of controversy, a week of protests that resembled revivals and $1 million in lawyers’ fees, the Ten Commandments standoff was resolved on Wednesday in about an hour, by five men and a jack.
A moving crew, hired from out of state because no Alabama company would do it, lifted the 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument installed by Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama and rolled it away.
All the speculation about the titanic slab of granite crashing through the floor of the Alabama Supreme Court or being too heavy to budge ended as the moving crew pushed the monument out of public view, as federal courts have demanded.
Dozens of protesters watched, furious and helpless, from behind the locked glass doors of the courthouse.
Many have been camping out on the courthouse steps, wearing their beliefs on their backs, with such T-shirts as “Jesus is the Standard” and “Satan is a Nerd.” As the workers readied the monument, a preacher belted out, “Pray the wheels crumble!”
After they did not, protesters started screaming: “Bring the monument back! Bring the monument back!”
Moore, who was suspended last week for defying a federal court order to remove the monument, issued a statement saying, “It is a sad day in our country when the moral foundation of our law and the acknowledgment of God has to be hidden from public view to appease a federal judge.”
Federal courts ruled the monument, known as “Roy’s Rock,” violated the separation of church and state. Moore was given until midnight Aug. 20 to remove it.
That leaves Moore, who once enjoyed the support of Alabama’s power elite, with few options, because legal analysts say they don’t think the U.S. Supreme Court will intervene. The court has already denied one of Moore’s appeals.
“As far as we’re concerned, this case is closed,” said Morris Dees, chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the civil liberties groups that sued to have the monument moved. Dees estimated that legal fees in the case are around $1 million and that the state of Alabama will have to pay most of them.
For now, the monument is tucked away in a locked back room in the Alabama Supreme Court. Court officials have not indicated what they will ultimately do with it.
Protesters, though, continued to flock to Montgomery. All day they blew ram’s horns, shook Bibles, passed out cans of Coke and knelt on the courthouse steps under a punishing sun.
“This is just the beginning,” said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. “We’re going to call everybody we know and tell them to come to Montgomery to look inside that empty building and see what the future of America looks like.”
Charles Tourney, whose family owns the Birmingham memorial company that built the monument, said that when he first got the order in 2001, “We assumed it was for a cemetery, a church or maybe a park.”
Tourney, along with several other Alabama monument companies, refused to move the stone. That left court officials searching this week for someone to lift the hunk of granite heavier than a pickup.
A company from Georgia was hired, Mahoney said, and around 8 on Wednesday morning, the movers began levering up the monument, inch by inch.
By 9 a.m., to the dismay of protesters, there were a few inches of daylight between the bottom of the monument and the courthouse floor.
A few minutes later, a wheeled jack was slid underneath the monument. Four of the movers got behind the stone block and pushed, while one man pulled the handle of the jack.
Protest organizers now say Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor is enemy No. 1.
Pryor, who has been nominated by President Bush for an appellate judgeship, originally supported Moore but last week sided with the chief justice’s eight colleagues when they voted to overrule Moore and move the monument.
“No man is above the law,” Pryor said.