BLOOMFIELD, N.M. – A judge nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan has sided with two New Mexico Wiccans and has ordered that a Ten Commandments monument must be removed from city property because it endorses Christianity.
U.S. District Judge James A. Parker issued his ruling on Thursday, stating that the 3,000-pound monument violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as it constituted a government “establishment of religion.”
“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,” he wrote.
The monument had been erected in 2011 following a resolution allowing private citizens to place historical displays at Bloomfield City Hall. A former city council member had proposed the monument four years prior, which was then approved by city council but paid for with private money.
“Presented to the people of San Juan County by private citizens recognizing the significance of these laws on our nation’s history,” the monument read, which was unveiled during a special ceremony on Independence Day 2011.
But Wiccans Jane Felix and Buford Coone of the Order of the Cauldron of the Sage felt offended by the monument and contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for assistance.
“Our clients who are not Christians, they took issue with this and it made them feel alienated from their community,” Alexandra Smith, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, told local television station KRQE.
The organization filed a lawsuit against the city in 2012, asserting that the monument’s presence on government property amounts to the government endorsement of religion. While the city argued before the court that the monument was historical in nature, the ACLU contended that the content of the Commandments themselves is blatantly religious.
“One of the commandments is thou shalt put no gods before me. This is clearly not a historical document, but is in fact religious doctrine,” Smith stated.
On Thursday, Parker agreed and ordered that the monument be removed by September 1oth, pending appeal.
Mayor Scott Eckstein told the Farmington Daily Times that he was disappointed in the outcome of the decision.
“I am surprised and had never really considered the judge ruling against it because it’s a historical document just like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights,” he stated. “The intent from the beginning was that the lawn was going to be used for historical purposes, and that’s what the council voted on.”
The city hall lawn also features monuments to the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the Bill of Rights.
The Bloomfield city attorney is now considering whether to file an appeal in the matter.