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Published On: Mon, Feb 13th, 2017

New Mexico: Atheists win as appeal to stop uprooting of Ten Commandments monument denied

A federal appeals court has denied a petition asking it to review a lower court ruling requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments monument in Bloomfield, New Mexico. The monuments sit with others at the City Hall, see the photo at the bottom.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals announced it would not hear the city’s appeal against the ruling brought against the city by two atheists who claim that it’s a violation of the first amendment and separation of church and state.

“Americans shouldn’t be forced to censor or whitewash religion’s role in history simply to appease the emotional response of two offended individuals with a political agenda,” stated Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs on the ruling.

“As the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, a passive monument, such as this display of the Ten Commandments, accompanied by others acknowledging our nation’s religious heritage cannot be interpreted as an establishment of religion. This court’s order failed to recognize ‘the historical understanding of what an establishment of religion is and what the First Amendment actually prohibits.’ Because of this misinterpretation of the law, we are consulting with our client to consider their options for appeal.”

City Manager Eric Strahl says the City Council will likely meet to next week to decide the next step. The city could either remove the monument or appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the 2012 lawsuit on behalf of two Bloomfield residents who objected to the monument. There is no record of a “rejected” monument by the atheists or a secular group and no mentioned of their free speech being stifled.

The Ten Commandments monument on the left has to go, according to two atheists

Excerpts from the dissenting opinion filed by Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr., and joined by Chief Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich in opposition to the majority’s panel opinion supporting the court’s order (citations omitted):
p. 3:  “This decision continues the error of our Establishment Clause cases. It does not align with the historical understanding of an ‘establishment of religion’ and thus with what the First Amendment actually prohibits.”
p. 3:  “To make sense of the Establishment Clause, one must understand the historical background that informed the Framers’ use of the word ‘establishment.’”
p. 11:  Citing the majority’s conditions for public monuments of limited religious nature under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause: “Yet the City of Bloomfield did each of those things. It accompanied the monument with secular markers such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Gettysburg Address. It avoided a government-sponsored or government-led religious ceremony at the unveiling, instead allowing private persons to run the event. And it provided not one but two disclaimers, one on the monument itself and one on a freestanding sign on the City Hall lawn. What more should the City have done, besides not having a Ten Commandments display at all?”
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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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