Friday, August 08, 2014

Ten Commandments On City Hall Lawn Violates Establishment Clause

In Felix v. City of Bloomfield, (D NM, Aug. 7, 2014), in a decision described by the court as "a very close case," a New Mexico federal district court held that a 5-foot tall Ten Commandments monument on the lawn in front of the Bloomfield, New Mexico municipal building violates the Establishment Clause. The monument was constructed on city property by a former member of city council under a city council policy on the placement of monuments on the city lawn. Summarizing its 32-page decision, the court said:
a. Plaintiffs have Article III standing because they have regular, direct, and unwelcome contact with the Ten Commandments monument and therefore have suffered an “injury-in-fact”.... 
b. The Ten Commandments monument is government speech ... because the ... 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.
c. 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 has had the primary or principal effect of endorsing religion.