updated 1/11/2005 12:14:23 AM ET 2005-01-11T05:14:23

A Bible was removed from a monument outside a downtown courthouse Monday while local officials appeal a federal judge’s ruling that the display is unconstitutional.

The action came after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted its block of the judge’s order in August to remove the Bible.

Kay Staley, a real estate broker and lawyer, had sued Harris County on grounds the display was offensive to non-Christians.

The appeals court did not address the merits of the case, but said Monday the Bible must be removed. The court also refused to allow the homeless mission responsible for the display to intervene in the appeal.

Gloria Roemer, a spokeswoman for Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, who has defended the display, said Eckels was disappointed with the ruling.

She said officials from the Star of Hope homeless mission removed the Bible from the display late Monday afternoon.

“This display clearly violates the separation of church and state,” the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said in a statement.

Staley sued the county in the wake of a controversy in Alabama surrounding a judge’s refusal to remove a monument bearing the Ten Commandments from that state’s judicial building.

Harris County argued the display outside the civil courthouse in Houston was a private expression of free speech by the homeless mission, and the county should not be held responsible for its contents.

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