Federal Judge Issues Ruling That Bloomfield City Hall Must Remove Ten Commandments Monument

Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

rembrandt-ten-commandmentsU.S. District Court Judge James Parker of the New Mexico District ruled a monument displaying the Ten Commandments must be removed from the Bloomfield, New Mexico City Hall.

A lawsuit was filed in the district on behalf of two members of the Wicca Religion by the American Civil Liberties Union against the city. Judge Parker’s ruling stated the city had violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to United States Constitution.

In his ruling, Judge Parker wrote in part:

“…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.”

A statement from the ACLU read in part:

“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.”

“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.”

There have been several cases filed on similar merits such as in the Sixth District and there are more likely to come forth, likely commensurate with any newly constructed monuments. Some backers of the monuments believe that the United States was founded on such values and, alternatively, the commandments are also secular tenets benefiting a peaceful society.

For further reading:

The lawsuit’s complaint may be read HERE (pdf)
The court decision may be read HERE (pdf)

By Darren Smith


American Civil Liberties Union

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

99 thoughts on “Federal Judge Issues Ruling That Bloomfield City Hall Must Remove Ten Commandments Monument”

  1. Charlton, Well, blow me away. So the amendments you mentioned gave the states & their legislative bodies the same status as Congress. Never knew that.

    Since when is the free exercise thereof not legal on public buildings & how do plaques, manger scenes & crosses establish a religion? This is where all the not in the Constitution mumbo jumbo comes in as junk is made up & thrown on the pile of extra Constitutional junk already there.

    The wording is very clear…so, we get activists & activist judges adding stuff that is not in the “Congress shall pass no law…” section so they can attack, stifle & hamper “…the free exercise thereof.” when it comes to symbols in public.

    Any thoughts on what I see as the real agenda: “If GOD doesn’t give us our rights, WHO then does? If we substitute govt for God, if it’s the govt who ends up giving rights, where are we all going to be? On the verge of a totalitarian state. A ‘progressives’ wet dream.”

    What men in govt give, they can use as blackmail. …” Govt, via the Homer Simpsons of secularism, is systematically taking the place of God. And what men in govt give, they can also take away.


    1. SamFox, it is curious how the Fourteenth Amendment plus a sloppy reading of the First Amendment has been twisted to make the First Amendment mean freedom FROM religion instead of freedom OF religion. One way to fix this problem is for Congress or the States to repeal or change the Fourteenth Amendment, which many argue was never properly ratified anyway (they did not get the required number of States to ratify it). A second need is to propose a new Amendment which simply acknowledges God as the lawgiver, and that guarantees government employees the right to acknowledge God in their official capacity. Then maybe public schools would not be persuaded by the ACLU to outlaw saying “God bless you” to those who sneeze. This last week, a tennessee student ran afoul of this, as seen in this article published in the United Kingdom.


  2. SamFox,
    Your thesis regarding the Constitution vs States might have held water before 1864. However, the 14th and 15th Amendments put that one to rest once and for all. I think it was Mississippi historian Shelby Foote who pointed out that those post civil war amendments changed the entire nation’s world view. We went from “The United States are…”, to “The United States is…”.

    What a difference a single verb makes.

    When the Constitution says “Congress” in the Bill of Rights, it also applies to all the states and their legislative bodies. Civil Rights and the rule of law applies to everyone equally, nationwide. If Congress cannot pass an unconstitutional law, neither can the states. That is stare decisis.

  3. The Constitution is very clear. ONLY Congress is mentioned. Not any state, group or individual.

    The crap about ‘favoring’ one religion over another is made up from nothing poppycock. Sorta like our $$…Take a look at what the Founders themselves had to say.

    What we have going is the trashing of the Constitution via over interpretation &, frankly, personal opinions & agendas.

    This Judge is a moron. He obviously never studied what the Founders had to say about ‘religion’ to ascertain their intent. Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists is taken so far our of context…& away from Tom & the other Founder’s intentions.

    What? Next the ACLU is gonna sue the fed govt because the Declaration of Independence mentions “Nature’s God” and “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.-“?

    You who want to kick out Nature’s God, who the FOUNDERS said our rights come from, best take another look at how you are being played for easy to manipulate Homer Simpsons. [Updated term for ‘useful idiots’.]

    If GOD doesn’t give us our rights, WHO then does? If we substitute govt for God, if it’s the govt who ends up giving rights, where are we all going to be? On the verge of a totalitarian state. A ‘progressives’ wet dream.

    What men in govt give, they can use as blackmail. Look at how the govt the blackmails the states NOW, with fed ‘grants’ from our OWN $$. Think of what they’ll do when they are determined to be the ones, rather than God, who issues our rights.

    Beware!! There is a much larger issue being played behind the scenes.

    All this freedom from religion stuff is is a backdoor attack on ALL OUR our freedoms, leading US down a very dark path. As was mentioned, the US Founders gave US freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion.

    Good news. Jesus Christ didn’t come to give us a new ‘religion’. He came to set us free. Read the Gospel of John.


  4. Davidm,
    The constitution and Bill of Rights are only as good as the culture willing to support and defend them. The people we elect to secure these fundamental principles by and large reflect the culture that put them there. If we want to change the conduct of those we elect to office then we need to take a sharp look at the electors.

    Of course back to your point; this is made far more difficult with a government inclined towards freedom from religion.

    1. John Oliver, I highly doubt that the Judeo/Christian culture depends upon monuments. The issue here is not about the culture, but about the role of our Constitution and the Judiciary in regards to freedom. The Judiciary is floundering on this subject. If the liberty meant to be protected by the First Amendment is now attacked by a modern twisted reinterpretation of that same Amendment, then we have a legal problem. Congress or the States need to fix it in the way that the Constitution gives them the power to do.

  5. It seems to me that Judge Parker makes a mistake in interpreting the First Amendment as being about freedom FROM religion instead of freedom OF religion. Judge Parker says it was a close call and mentions in his conclusion: “Had the Ten Commandments monument been installed without a dedication event or with a ceremony absent religious overtones, the ultimate conclusion may have differed.”

    Somehow he seems to think that neutrality is maintained by favoring the irreligious over the religious or by favoring the secular over the sacred. That simply is not true. Neutrality is maintained by allowing speech from both perspectives. Government should not endorse secular speech as being better speech than religious speech. This leads to government favoring atheism or anything that is non-religious, something most of our founding fathers would have shunned.

    Part of the problem in his decision also stems by not realizing the secular purpose that history and tradition serves in deciding what monuments might be allowed in the public square. When history is a history of religious influence upon our society, it does not convert that history into something religious and therefore unconstitutional speech. The history still serves a secular purpose in accurately relaying true history. Yet in Judge Parker’s decision, he thinks that the city criteria of history and aesthetics provides unwarranted “selective access.”

    So in the end, we have a loss of freedom of speech and a loss of freedom of religion. The ACLU thinks they saved two individuals from the alleged injury of having to walk by an egregious religious monument, but the truth is that they simply won another battle in stripping a New Mexico community of their civil liberties. We should start thinking of the ACLU as the Anti Civil Liberties Union.

  6. I have a question I’ve asked on the “Texas Rick Perry” thread that no one seems to want to attempt to answer. Perhaps someone here can explain why withholding IRS tax credits for the “non-state” ACA exchange enrollees or the individual mandate are not coercion but Perry’s actions are?

  7. John
    Don’t you mean the Conservative/fascist/dictators in that string along?

  8. Until such time as mankind ascertains the origin and purpose of infinity and all matter within it, the word God will suffice. Nature abhors a vacuum and compels us to quit the fence.

    The Founders did not establish a theocracy. The Founders were religious zealots that were freedom seekers after rejecting a monarchy. They established religious freedom in a restricted-vote republic. Never did they intend for religion to rule or for commoners to vote. They sought intelligent, rational and extremely limited government while securing “the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” They thought you knew and understood that business was to be as free as religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion (BUSINESS), or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” They thought you KNEW that. They LIVED it. They thought you understood that.

    The Founders established a religiously neutral government.

    Local facilities may be decorated for and by the local staff and those decorations may be considered inoffensive “art.” The Ten Commandments displayed are NOT posted law but art or decoration. Personal displays as art or decoration In public buildings are separate from law, regulation or rules and permissible as such. Personal displays do not bear on or intimidate other personnel or the public. Personal displays may be personal family photos, mementos, knick knacks, figurines, potted plants, flowers, aesthetic objects, etc.

    Liberals/communists/socialists/collectivists KNOW this. That they are allowed to undermine normal, traditional and customary life with counterintuitive, nonsensical chaos and pervert the law then prosecute law for law’s sake is ultimately destructive to normal, traditional, customary, rational and coherent life and governance.

    Woe shall be to them when the normal discover that,

    The inmates have taken over the asylum.

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