National group demands Santa Fe remove Ten Commandments statue

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A national organization is taking aim at a Ten Commandments monument in New Mexico, this time in Santa Fe.

It says the monolith a clear violation of the separation of church and state, but the city says it has had no complaints for the many years it’s been up.

According to the national group, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the 6-foot monument was erected by the Fraternal Order of Eagles as a PR stunt to help advertise the 1956 film epic “The Ten Commandments,” and now FFRF wants it taken down.

“The city of Santa Fe has no business telling citizens which God they must have or how many Gods they must have,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

In a letter to the city attorney, the Freedom from Religion Foundation is asking the city to remove it from public property. The group is citing the 2016 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found a similar Ten Commandments monument in another New Mexico city was unconstitutional, forcing Bloomfield to fork over $700,000 in legal costs.

“The Supreme Court has said the Ten Commandments are not civil; they are sacred,” Gaylor added. “They’re not supposed to stand alone on public lawns. It’s really an insult, I think, to walk past a city park and have the city telling you what God [you’re] supposed to be worshiping.”

Mitch Schmitt’s grandfather was one of the Fraternal Order of Eagles members who helped bring the monument to Ashbaugh Park decades ago.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to move it,” Schmitt said.

In terms of the monolith’s future, many have mixed feelings.

“I would always like to see things like that removed and if it’s on private property fine but if it’s on government-owned area it probably shouldn’t be there,” Amanda Taylor said.

“Specifically here in New Mexico we have such a rich Catholic influence. I think it would be great if it stands,” Michael Wright said.

The FFRF did not say if it will sue if Santa Fe does not remove the monument.

A couple of months ago the city said it had not received any complaints about the monument. The city would not comment Tuesday on the demand to take it down.

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