WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it has denied the petition for certiorari in Felix v. Bloomfield, the lawsuit filed in 2012 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico seeking the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the Bloomfield, New Mexico city hall lawn. In 2014, a federal district court ruled that the monument violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and ordered the monument removed. In 2016, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling against the monument. The City then sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case means that the lower courts’ rulings stand, and the City of Bloomfield must remove the monument from the city hall lawn.
“This is a victory for the religious liberty of people everywhere,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “The Supreme Court’s decision to let the rulings against the monument stand sends a strong message that the government should not be in the business of picking and choosing which sets of religious beliefs enjoy special favor in the community. To be clear, we would defend the right of any church, homeowner or business to raise this monument on their own property. But we cannot tolerate a city government using tax payer dollars to fund a monument that celebrates one religion above all others.”
Beginning in 2007, Bloomfield political leaders began a campaign to circumvent the laws that prohibit government sponsored religious monuments. The city council, on the instigation of then councilor Kevin Mauzy, adopted a resolution allowing for private donation of a Ten Commandments monument to be displayed on the city hall lawn. In July 2011, despite voiced objections from concerned community members, former city councilor Mauzy and his associates erected a large monument featuring the Ten Commandments near the entrance to city hall. On July 4th, Mauzy presided over a religious and patriotic themed dedication ceremony.
The ACLU of New Mexico filed a lawsuit against the City of Bloomfield in early 2012 on behalf of two Bloomfield residents who believed that the presence of a Judeo-Christian religious monument at city hall was a message from their government that they, as non-Christians, were not equal members of the community.
“Northwest New Mexico is home to many vibrant and varied religious traditions, some of which predate the arrival of Europeans,” said Andy Schultz, ACLU-NM board member and cooperating attorney for Felix v. Bloomfield. “Enshrining the Ten Commandments on government property lifts up one set of religious traditions and places it above all others. Not only is that unconstitutional, it disrespects the Bloomfield residents whose diverse beliefs and religious traditions are also an important part of community life.”