A small town in New Mexico is fighting back against a judge's order to remove the Ten Commandments monument at its City Hall, saying it commemorates a historical document akin to the Declaration of Independence.
"The city believes the Ten Commandments Historical Monument does not constitute government speech; rather, the city believes it has done nothing more than create a designated public forum in which private citizens have the opportunity to enact historical documents," Bloomfield City Attorney Ryan Lane told The Daily Times
of Farmington, N.M.
Earlier this month, Senior U.S. District Judge James Parker ruled
in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union, saying that the monument "has the principal effect of endorsing religion" and constitutes government speech.
In his 32-page opinion, Parker said Bloomfield clearly violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, and ordered the city to remove the monument by Sept. 10.
The city council in the community of 8,000 voted unanimously to appeal Parker's order.
Lane said he will argue that the monument is like others in the town that depict the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg Address.
The Four Corners Historical Project, not the city, paid for the monument, said Lane.
The city installed the five-foot-tall monument on July 11, 2011 in front of city hall, and one year later, the Albuquerque chapter of the ACLU filed suit on behalf of two people, Jane Felix and Buford Clark, who said the monument was illegally erected on city property.
"It violates the fact that there should not be any specific religion put forth as a state religion," Felix, a Wiccan high priestess, said.
Parker said, when making his ruling, that the court considered the issue closed because the monument was more prominently placed. Had it been with the other monuments, said Parker, "the First Amendment may not have been offended."
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