New Mexico Ten Commandments Monument to Be Moved to Church After Being Declared ‘Unconstitutional’
BLOOMFIELD, N. M. — A Ten Commandments monument that had been declared unconstitutional by a federal appeals court last November will be moved to the grounds of a local church after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the matter.
The Decalogue display, which had been erected at the Bloomfield City Hall in 2011 following approval by city council, will now be relocated to the First Baptist Church of Bloomfield.
“It’s something that the whole community can enjoy and appreciate,” Kevin Mauzy of the Four Corners Historical Monument Project told the Associated Press.
As previously reported, the presence of the monument—which sat among other displays not of a religious nature—had been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented Wiccans Jane Felix and Buford Coone of the Order of the Cauldron of the Sage. The women claimed that the Ten Commandments slab made them feel “alienated” since they are not Christians.
“Presented to the people of San Juan County by private citizens recognizing the significance of these laws on our nation’s history,” the Decalogue read, which was unveiled during a special ceremony.
“Our clients who are not Christians, they took issue with this and it made them feel alienated from their community,” Alexandra Smith, legal director for the ACLU of New Mexico, told local television station KRQE.
The organization filed a lawsuit against the city in 2012, asserting that the monument’s presence on government property amounts to the government endorsement of religion. While the city argued before the court that the monument was historical in nature, the ACLU contended that the content of the Commandments themselves is blatantly religious.
“One of the commandments is thou shalt put no gods before me. This is clearly not a historical document, but is in fact religious doctrine,” Smith stated.
In August 2014, U.S. District Judge James Parker, nominated to the bench by then-President Ronald Reagan, sided with the Wiccans, declaring that the Decalogue violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“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 has had the primary or principal effect of endorsing religion,” he wrote.
The city appealed, and in November, the 10th Circuit upheld Parker’s ruling, stating that the addition of historical monuments adjacent to the Ten Commandments did not fix the constitutional infirmities.
“[I]t was especially inadequate here because of the plain religious motivations apparent from the approval (approved alone), financing (sponsored entirely by churches), and unveiling (ceremony rife with Christian allusions) of the Monument,” the three-judge panel wrote.
“In light of those considerations, and the situational context of the Ten Commandments on the lawn, the City would have to do more than merely add a few secular monuments in order to signal to objective observers a ‘principal or primary’ message of neutrality,” it concluded. “Because we find an impermissible effect of endorsement that is insufficiently mitigated by curative efforts, we affirm.”
The city then sought an en banc, or full appeals court, review of the case, but the request was denied.
More than 20 states and over 20 members of Congress had joined legal briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the nine justices to hear the case, but last month, the court declined to hear the matter.
“It’s kind of sad when it seems like our history, facts and truth don’t seem to matter anymore,” Mauzy told reporters after realizing that the monument would have to be relocated.
As previously reported, John Adams, second president of the United States, wrote in his diary on Feb. 22, 1756, “Suppose a nation in some distant region, should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. Every member would be obliged in conscience to temperance and frugality and industry, to justice and kindness and charity towards his fellow men, and to piety and love, and reverence towards almighty God.”
“In this Commonwealth, no man would impair his health by gluttony, drunkenness or lust—no man would sacrifice his most precious time to cards, or any other trifling and mean amusement—no man would steal or lie or any way defraud his neighbour, but would live in peace and goodwill with all men. No man would blaspheme his Maker or profane his worship, but a rational and manly, a sincere and unaffected piety and devotion, would reign in all hearts.”
“What a Eutopia, what a paradise would this region be,” Adams declared.