ACLU-NM Investigates Constitutionality of Bloomfield Ten Commandments Monument

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
June 22, 2011 4:39 pm

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BLOOMFIELD, NM – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed an Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) request with the City of Bloomfield, NM, requesting records regarding the city’s planned Ten Commandments monument. The monument, soon to be installed in front of the city hall, may violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which prohibits the government from establishing or endorsing religious beliefs. Through this IRPA request, the ACLU of New Mexico seeks to determine whether the City of Bloomfield chose to erect this monument for a religious purpose.

“Religious freedom thrives when the government stays out of religion and does not endorse one faith over another,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Matters of religious belief should be left to individuals, families and faith communities, not to governments or political majorities.”

Federal courts have repeatedly affirmed that the First Amendment prohibits the government from promoting one religion over another, or even showing preference between religion and non-religion. In many cases, monuments on public property featuring the Ten Commandments have been ruled as unconstitutional.

As recently as 2009, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Haskell County, Oklahoma to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the county courthouse grounds, saying that a “reasonable observer” would conclude that the monument was an endorsement of religion. The county’s defense of the monument cost local taxpayers $200,000 in legal fees.

“Which version of the Ten Commandments will the City of Bloomfield choose to endorse?” questioned ACLU-NM Staff Attorney Leon Howard. “Catholic? Protestant? Hebraic? The versions are all different. The City can’t erect the monument without snubbing one religious faith or another.”

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