ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Yesterday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a legal opinion upholding a district court ruling that found that the five foot granite Ten Commandments monument installed on the city hall lawn in Bloomfield, NM violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2012 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico on behalf of two Bloomfield residents who objected to their city government unconstitutionally endorsing one particular religion.
“We are pleased that the 10th Circuit agrees that the Bloomfield Ten Commandments monument is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Religious belief and practice is an important part of the lives of many New Mexicans, and we fully support the right of individuals and organizations to create religious displays on private property. However, the City of Bloomfield shouldn’t be in the business of deciding which set of beliefs should be favored from among the diverse religious traditions and beliefs held by its citizens.”
The religious monument was first installed on government property in July, 2011 and dedicated on July 4th with a religious themed ceremony. Former city councilor Kevin Mauzy, who originally proposed the 2007 city ordinance that allowed for the Ten Commandments monument to be displayed on the city hall lawn, presided over the dedication ceremony.
In its opinion this week, the Court ruled that:
“In light of the context and apparent motivation of the Ten Commandments’ placement on the lawn, we conclude the City’s conduct had the effect of endorsing religion in violation of the Establishment Clause…Particularly in light of the circumstances surrounding the original installation of the Ten Commandments monument, we find Bloomfield impermissibly gave the impression to reasonable observers that the City was endorsing religion.”
ACLU board member and cooperating attorney Andy Schultz of the Rodey Law Firm served as lead counsel in the litigation.