Court puts hold on NM Ten Commandments decision while appeal moves forward

ADF attorneys represent city of Bloomfield
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Attorney sound bite:  Jonathan Scruggs

SANTA FE, N.M. – The federal court that ruled against a Ten Commandments monument in a New Mexico town has agreed to put its decision on hold until an appeals court is able to hear the case. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys notified the court Friday that the city of Bloomfield will be appealing the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Two local residents claiming to be offended by the monument filed suit through their American Civil Liberties Union attorneys in 2012 in an attempt to have the monument uprooted.

“A Ten Commandments monument nestled among many other monuments honoring significant documents in American history should not be attacked simply because two people say they are offended by it,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “The emotional response of an offended passerby should not amount to a violation of the Establishment Clause. Someone who is offended by the idea that religion is important to our society believes the opposite of what the authors of our Constitution believed.”

In an effort to beautify the city, Bloomfield officials created a public forum on the City Hall lawn that gives private citizens the opportunity to pay for and erect historical monuments. Over time, a variety of privately funded monuments were erected, including monuments honoring the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, the Bill of Rights, and the Ten Commandments. Each monument includes the name of the donors and explains the document’s significance in American history.

The ACLU of New Mexico, on behalf of Jane Felix and B.N. Coone, filed Felix v. City of Bloomfield in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico on the grounds that the two residents are offended by the Ten Commandments monument and that it therefore violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“A passive monument accompanied by others acknowledging our nation’s religious heritage cannot be interpreted as an establishment of religion,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “It’s our hope that the 10th Circuit will affirm, as the Supreme Court recently did, that adults ‘often encounter speech they find disagreeable; and an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views….’”
 
  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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