New Mexico Ten Commandments display to be moved from city hall to church grounds

(Wikimedia Commons/Office of the Attorney General of Texas)A tablet displaying the Ten Commandments, located on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol.

A New Mexico group that erected a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn of Bloomfield City Hall has decided to move the display to a local church after a court declared it "unconstitutional."

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court had declined to hear a case on whether the monument could be displayed on public property, allowing lower court rulings to stand.

Lower courts had ordered its removal from the lawn of the city hall after concluding that it had violated the U.S. Constitution's ban on government endorsing a religion.

The six-foot-tall monument will now be relocated to First Baptist Church of Bloomfield, in part because of its central location in the community.

"It's something that the whole community can enjoy and appreciate," Kevin Mauzy, the founder of the Four Corners Historical Monument Project, told Associated Press.

Mauzy explained that no city money will be spent on relocating the approximately 3,000-pound monument.

The display was erected in 2011 following approval by city council, but its presence at the city hall was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2012 when two women complained that the monument made them feel "alienated" because they were not Christians.

The city had argued before the court that the monument was historical in nature, while the ACLU contended that the content of the Commandments themselves is blatantly religious.

In 2014, U.S. District Court Judge James Parker ruled that the city should remove the display, arguing that it is "government speech regulated by the Establishment Clause because the Ten Commandments 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."

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court decision in 2016, and last month the U.S. Supreme Court had declined to intervene in the matter.

Attorneys for the city had contended that the Tenth Circuit had ignored previous rulings that simply being offended by such displays did not give someone a legal basis to challenge it.

"Just because we disagree with what something says, does not mean we can ban it from the public square," read a statement from Alliance Defending Freedom, which was helping to represent Bloomfield.

"But by allowing the Tenth Circuit decision to stand, the Supreme Court has given anti-religion advocates a license to challenge any monument that they see and offends them," it continued.

Bloomfield City Manager Eric Strahl stated that First Baptist Church "would be a nice place" to put the Decalogue display.

"It will be positioned so it faces Route 550 so everybody going through that intersection, either going north or south on 550, should be able to see it," he explained.

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