Thou Shalt Not Erect Religious Monuments on City Grounds: Court

Ten Commandments structure in Bloomfield, NM, declared unconstitutional
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2016 12:04 PM CST
Thou Shalt Not Erect Religious Monuments on City Grounds: Court
This May 15, 2012, photo shows the Bloomfield Ten Commandments monument at City Hall in Bloomfield, NM.   (Jon Austria/The Daily Times via AP)

(Newser) – Much like those "rapid-fire warnings at the end of prescription drug commercials," a disclaimer on a Ten Commandments monument in New Mexico might require "a reasonable observer … to get on his knees" to read it, an appeals declared this week. That was one of the factors in its decision that the monument's home on Bloomfield city property is unconstitutional, the Farmington Daily Times reports. The US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled Wednesday that the monument—described by the ABA Journal as a 5-foot-tall, 3,400-pound structure erected in 2011 on the City Hall's lawn—"would give an objective observer the impression of official religious endorsement," given that it's right next to the city's main government building.

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Per the Durango Herald, the case came out of a 2012 lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of two local Wiccan followers who said they were offended by the structure. But Jonathan Scruggs, an attorney with the advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, which is working with the city, points out that monuments honoring other "significant documents in American history" are also nestled close by—one for the Gettysburg Address, as well as one for the Bill of Rights. "The city is not playing favorites here," he says. "It's allowing anyone to erect a monument on the lawn as long as it's historical." The court disagreed, citing the "impermissible taint of endorsement." (A Texas county agreed to remove crosses from cop cars.)

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