Given our current culture, it should come as no surprise that Ten Commandments monuments are often the target of legal challenges.
Twelve years ago, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a Ten Commandments monument in Texas could stay because it has historical – not just religious – significance. Still, rulings at the circuit court level on this issue continue to be inconsistent.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has allowed this inconsistency to continue, after declining to hear a similar case out of Bloomfield, New Mexico. Two Bloomfield residents, represented by the ACLU, sued the city because of a Ten Commandments monument displayed alongside other historical monuments at city hall. They claim it is the government’s attempt to establish a religion and that they are “offended” by the display. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled in their favor.
And the Supreme Court is allowing that ruling to stand, despite the fact that:
1. Private citizens erected and paid for this monument, not the government, in a venue the government created for private speech.
Bloomfield officials opened a plot of land for private citizens to place monuments celebrating our nation’s heritage. Local residents, on their own time, raised the funds to both make and place the monuments. When the Ten Commandments monument was dedicated, no government official was present. And the monument and a nearby sign even state that the monument is presented by and speaks for private citizens.
2. It is displayed along with other monuments to our nation’s heritage.
The monument sits on the lawn of city hall with several other monuments, including the Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg Address, and the Declaration of Independence. Each monument holds significance in America’s history and heritage. The Ten Commandments influenced American legal thought, and Moses is regarded as one of the great lawgivers in history. In fact, his likeness appears at the Supreme Court among other great lawgivers.
3. Feeling “offended” is not grounds for a lawsuit.
Just because we disagree with what something says, does not mean we can ban it from the public square. 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.
Just because a historical monument also has spiritual significance does not mean it should be excluded from the public square. The Supreme Court has recognized this once but failed to reinforce that distinction.
Alliance Defending Freedom will continue to work to ensure that our religious liberty is upheld and our religious heritage preserved.
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