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Federal judge rules New Mexico city hall must remove Ten Commandments monument

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of New Mexico ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that a New Mexico city must remove a Ten Commandments monument placed outside of Bloomfield city hall. The lawsuit [complaint, PDF] was initially filed in 2012 against the city of Bloomfield by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of two residents who are members of the Wiccan religion [advocacy websites]. Judge James Parker's ruling stated that the monument was a violation of the Establishment Clause [JURIST backgrounder] of the First Amendment [text] and had the main purpose of endorsing religion. Executive Director for the ACLU of New Mexico Peter Simonson stated [press release] in regards to the ruling, "We firmly support the right of individuals, religious groups, and community associations to publicly display religious monuments, but the government should not be in the business of picking which sets of religious beliefs belong at City Hall." The city of Bloomfield has 30 days to appeal the ruling.

Ten Commandments displays have been the subject of legal controversy in recent years. Last August the ACLU filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in the Oklahoma County District Court seeking the removal of a Ten Commandments monument placed prominently in the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] in February 2011 upheld a lower court ruling barring the Ten Commandments [JURIST report] from being displayed in an Ohio courthouse. The Sixth Circuit in June 2010 upheld an injunction against similar displays [JURIST report] in two Kentucky courthouses. A month earlier the same court denied an en banc rehearing in another case [opinion, PDF] involving the display of the Ten Commandments in a Grayson County, Kentucky, courthouse. The court found the display to be constitutional because it presented a valid secular purpose from the outset. In a 2005 decision the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of a Ten Commandments display [JURIST report] in a Mercer County, Kentucky courthouse.

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