Thursday, November 10, 2016

10th Circuit: Ten Commandments Monument Violates Establishment Clause

In Felix v. City of Bloomfield, (10th Cir., Nov. 9, 2016), the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court (see prior posting) that a Ten Commandments monument erected by a former city councilman on the Bloomfield, New Mexico city hall lawn violates the Establishment Clause. Among other things, the court held that plaintiffs who are polytheistic Wiccans demonstrated sufficient injury to have standing even though they only saw the monument and never read the text on it. The court went on to hold:
The apparent purpose and context of the Monument’s installation would give an objective observer the impression of official religious endorsement. In arriving at this conclusion, we examine the text of the Monument, its placement on the lawn, the circumstances of its financing and installation, and the timing of this litigation.
It held that disclaimers on and around the monument failed to "negate the more powerful statement of endorsement conveyed by a decision to place the Monument on government land." Nor did the later addition of a number of secular monuments cure the violation.