BLOOMFIELD, NM—Yesterday afternoon, District Court Judge James Parker ruled that the granite monument featuring the Ten Commandments installed on the lawn of Bloomfield City Hall violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, and must be removed by the city by September 10, 2014. The lawsuit was filed in 2012 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico on behalf of two Bloomfield residents who objected to the monument, believing it to be an unconstitutional endorsement of a particular religion.
“This decision is a victory for the First Amendment’s protections against government endorsed religion,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “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 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.
“Bloomfield residents come from many different religious traditions, and the government should never discriminate amongst them by lifting up one above the other,” said ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director Alexandra Freedman Smith. “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.”
A copy of the court’s decision can be read here: Felix District Court Opinion
Read the legal complaint here: Felix v. Bloomfield