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Broad support for Ten Commandments monument reflected in numerous briefs at Supreme Court

Numerous states, members of Congress join others asking justices to take up NM case

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has received numerous friend-of-the-court briefs in support of a New Mexico city’s ability to allow citizens to display a Ten Commandments monument among other historical monuments on public property. The briefs filed in City of Bloomfield v. Felix include support from the attorneys general or governors of 23 states, 24 members of Congress, and a variety of legal experts, religious groups, and others.

Last month, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the city of Bloomfield, New Mexico, asked the high court to take up the case, which involves a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn of Bloomfield’s City Hall. In February, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit declined to reconsider a three-judge panel’s decision that upheld a district court’s order to remove the monument.

“As the numerous briefs filed in this case affirm, Americans shouldn’t be forced to censor religion’s role in history simply to appease someone who is offended by it or who has a political agenda to remove all traces of religion from the public square,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “We hope the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the arguments in these briefs, take this case, and affirm, as it recently did, that ‘an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views.’”

In an effort to beautify the city, Bloomfield officials created a public forum on the City Hall lawn that allows private citizens to pay for and erect historical monuments. Over time, a variety of privately funded monuments were erected, including ones honoring the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg Address, and the Ten Commandments. Each monument includes the name of its donors and affirms the document’s significance in American history.

“Like the federal government, States, counties, and municipalities have historically included, or allowed private parties to include, religious text and symbols on monuments and other displays on public property,” the brief filed by state attorneys general and governors explains. “The [states and officials filing this brief] have an interest in maintaining that practice, consistent with the Establishment Clause. The absence of a clear Establishment Clause test, even in the subset of cases involving Ten Commandments displays, encourages costly and time-consuming litigation against governmental entities and actors. [The states and officials filing this brief] seek freedom to erect, authorize, and maintain constitutional displays on government property without the ongoing threat of wasteful litigation.”

As the city’s petition filed with the Supreme Court in July argued, the high court’s guidance is needed because various circuit courts are using different standards to evaluate whether Ten Commandments monuments such as the one in Bloomfield are permissible. In addition, the Supreme Court should clarify “whether individuals have standing to bring an Establishment Clause challenge simply because they are offended by a monument.”

“Previous Supreme Court decisions appear to have made the answer to that question clear: Simply being offended isn’t a sufficient reason to be able to bring a lawsuit like this,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “This case gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to reaffirm that principle and prevent the removal of a monument that stands alongside others in a perfectly acceptable manner.”

Attorneys with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP are co-counsel for the city of Bloomfield.

  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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