The Alabama chief justice who installed a monument bearing the Ten Commandments in the state's supreme court was dismissed on Thursday. He had defied federal court orders to remove the monument, which violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
The case of Chief Justice Roy Moore has become a cause celebre for fundamental Christians and many picketed the hearing of the judicial panel which made Thursday's decision. Supporters of the chief justice prayed and blew ram's horns in protest outside the hearing in Montgomery.
"Finding no other viable alternatives, this court hereby finds that Roy S. Moore be removed from his position as chief justice of Ala-bama," said a statement from the nine-member Alabama court of the judiciary, which consisted of his fellow judges and legal specialists.
They ruled that he had "failed to respect and comply with the law" and had "failed to observe the high standards" required by his office.
Moore was unrepentant.
"We fought a good fight," he said afterwards. "We have kept the faith ... I'd do it all the same all over again. God is the basis of our law and our government. I cannot and will not violate my conscience."
He indicated that the battle over the two-tonne monument was not over, although the US Supreme Court has said it has no intention of intervening.
The case against him was led by the state's attorney general, William Pryor, who was once an ally of the judge and had supported him at rallies. But Pryor said that Moore, by his behavior, "had put himself above the law."
He was aware when he installed the monument that it would cause a dispute.
It was moved in August from its original location at the entrance to the court after a ruling that it had no place in a court of law. It is now in storage.
Members of the religious right and civil liberties groups have gathered to protest at the monument's removal.
Opponents of the judge have pointed out that the commandment not to kill is regularly ignored by the Alabama courts, which support and impose the death penalty.