Judge: Religious monument must go
Bloomfield City Hall in New Mexico has been given until September 10, 2014, to remove a Ten Commandments monument, originally placed on the lawn of the building in 2011.
District Court Judge James Parker ruled last week that the granite monument violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
A lawsuit demanding the removal of the monument was filed in 2012 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico on behalf of two Bloomfield residents who objected to the thing, believing it to be an unconstitutional endorsement of a particular religion.
It was the brainchild of Kevin Mauzy, pictured above, a former member of the Bloomfield city council.
According to this report, Mauzy said he ran on a campaign to beautify the city, and the Ten Commandments monument was part of that effort. He said of the Ten Commandments:
That was one of the earliest documents. It was essential in the founding of our country.
Said ACLU of New Mexico’s Executive Director Peter Simonson:
This decision is a victory for the First Amendment’s protections against government endorsed religion. We firmly support the right of individuals, religious groups, and community associations to publicly display religious monuments, but the government should not be in the business of picking which sets of religious beliefs belong at city hall. We hope that the Ten Commandments monument will find a new home on private property in the city where people can continue to enjoy it.
In its decision, the court concluded:
… The Ten Commandments monument is government speech regulated by the Establishment Clause because the Ten Commandments monument is a permanent object located on government property and it is not part of a designated public forum open to all on equal terms …
In view of the circumstances surrounding the context, history, and purpose of the Ten Commandments monument, it is clear that the City of Bloomfield has violated the Establishment Clause because its conduct in authorizing the continued display of the monument on City property had the primary or principal effect of endorsing religion.
The religious monument was dedicated on July 4, 2011, with a religiously themed ceremony presided over by Mauzy.
ACLU of New Mexico’s Legal Director Alexandra Freedman Smith added:
Bloomfield residents come from many different religious traditions, and the government should never discriminate amongst them by lifting up one above the other. Not only does this monument run afoul of the First Amendment, but it sends an exclusionary message to members of the community who do not subscribe to the particular set of religious beliefs inscribed there. The government belongs to us all, and it should not marginalize community members because of their faith.
Hat tip: Penigma.