MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Chief Justice Roy Moore asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building Wednesday as supporters held a candlelight vigil to begin a round-the-clock protest.
Moore, who was turned back twice Tuesday by a federal appeals panel, filed a motion Wednesday asking the Supreme Court to stay an order for the monument's removal by the end of the day.
Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor said he expected the stone display to be out of the building "very soon" in compliance with court orders.
Moore's supporters held a candlelight vigil just after midnight, with nine pastors leading some 30 worshippers from across the country in prayer.
"Even if they should remove this monument - and God forbid they do - they'll never be able to remove it from our hearts," said the Rev. Greg Dixon of Indianapolis Baptist Temple.
Moore later reiterated his refusal to move the 5,300-pound monument by the deadline, set by a federal judge, of midnight Wednesday.
"This case is not about a monument, it's not about politics or religion, it's about the acknowledgment of God," he said during an interview on CBS' "The Early Show."
"We must acknowledge God because our constitution says our justice system is established upon God. For (the judge) to say 'I can't say who God is' is to disestablish the justice system of this state."
Moore, who installed the monument in the rotunda of the judicial building two years ago, contends it represents the moral foundation of American law and that a federal judge has no authority to make him remove it.
His emergency request Wednesday was filed with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who can handle the matter himself or refer it to the full court. Kennedy oversees cases from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Moore's attorney, Herbert Titus, wrote that a stay would "permit the Chief Justice to fulfill the campaign promise that he made to the citizens of Alabama to restore the moral foundation of law."
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Moore's request for a stay Tuesday and Moore immediately asked the panel to reconsider. Later in the day the appeals court turned him down again, saying he had failed to ask for a stay within the legal time frame after it ruled against him July 1.
The 11th Circuit earlier this year agreed with a ruling by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, who held the monument violates the constitution's ban on government promotion of religion.
Thompson has said he may fine the state about $5,000 a day if the monument is not removed by the end of the day Wednesday. He has said it would be permissible for the monument to be moved to a less public site, such as Moore's office.