Judge: Ten Commandments monument must go

BLOOMFIELD, N.M. (KRQE) – A federal judge agrees, a monument displaying the Ten Commandments in front of a New Mexico city hall is a violation of the First Amendment.

It’s the result of a two-year-long lawsuit. Now, the city of Bloomfield must remove the 3,000 pound monument. In 2011, there was a celebration for the unveiling of a monument displaying the Ten Commandments on the Bloomfield City Hall lawn, but not everyone was happy.

“Our clients who are not Christians, they took issue with this and it made them feel alienated from their community,” said Alexandra Smith, Legal Director and Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.

The ACLU and their Bloomfield clients, who practice the Wiccan religion, have just won a lawsuit filed in 2012. A federal judge decided the monument must be removed from it’s place on the city hall lawn.

“In this case, the government promoted one religion over another by taking the Ten Commandments monument and putting it right outside of City Hall,” explained Smith.

A former Bloomfield city council member proposed a Ten Commandments monument in 2007. Council unanimously approved the request.

City officials argued in court that the Ten Commandments is historical, and did not violate the law. It’s something the ACLU disagrees with.

“One of the commandments is thou shalt put no God before me, this is clearly not a historical document, but is in fact a religious doctrine,” said Smith.

The court acknowledged the Ten Commandments have “secular significance in the country’s heritage,” but said the city violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment when government officials endorsed a religious message.

The five foot tall, granite monument weighs about 3,000 pounds. It’s unclear what the city will do with it. “I don’t know, but we hope it will find a new home on private property where the people of Bloomfield can enjoy it,” Smith said.

Bloomfield has until September 10, 2014 to remove the monument, but they do have 30 days to appeal the decision. Bloomfield’s Mayor told KRQE News 13, the court’s decision is disappointing, and said city council will decide whether to appeal.

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