Faith sends attorney to court

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By SCOTT PESZNECKER

A little more than a month ago, Brian Chavez-Ochoa boarded an airplane for Montgomery, Ala., expecting to defend religious activists who had been arrested at a protest.

But a few days later, the Valley Springs attorney found himself at the center of a nationwide religious debate.

Chavez-Ochoa announced Aug. 23 that he would file a lawsuit challenging a United States District Court decision that a 5,300-pound Ten Commandments monument must be removed from the Alabama Supreme Court.

The decision came in a suit filed by three Montgomery lawyers. But Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, refused to have the monument removed and was later suspended from his post.

Dripping with sweat in the humid, 100-degree weather, Chavez-Ochoa made his announcement from the Supreme Court steps in front of 400 demonstrators and a throng of reporters.

"There was lot of excitement in the air," said Chavez-Ochoa, who spent 10 days in the South. "The only way I can describe it is, from a Christian standpoint, that the holy spirit of God was moving powerfully.

"I had never experienced that before."

Representing two Christian groups Operation Rescue West and the Christian Defense Coalition Chavez-Ochoa filed suit alleging the court that ordered the monument removed had discriminated against Judeo-Christian faiths.

A U.S. District Court judge dismissed the suit Aug. 29, but Chavez-Ochoa wasn't finished.

He filed again, but used the exact same complaint used to get the monument removed, and changed the wording to make it fit his argument.

However, the same district court judge dismissed the second lawsuit, and ruled that another suit could not be filed.

In early September, Chavez-Ochoa tried one last time filing with the federal 11th Circuit Court, just one step below the U.S. Supreme Court. He's asking the circuit court to strike down the district court's order barring further legal action, and expects a favorable decision in the next few weeks.

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