AUSTIN – The Supreme Court and the Ten Commandments meet again.
Among other cases regarding religious monuments and the Establishment Clause brought before the nation’s highest court, city of Bloomfield v. Felix is now supported by an amicus curaie, or friend of the court, brief filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Challenged like many others, New Mexico’s city of Bloomfield is attempting to protect a Ten Commandment monument from being removed from city hall property.
Working with the Alliance Defending Freedom and other respective attorneys on the case and brief, Bloomfield City Attorney Ryan Lane told the The Record that “the city of Bloomfield is grateful for the support of the various attorney generals across the nation and this confirms the importance of upholding the private speech rights of citizens.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 10 after a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a panel of judges verdict to remove the monument, which was one of a few donated for a beautification project funded by the public.
Lane said the city of Bloomfield has opened up the front lawn of City Hall to allow private citizens to erect historical monuments.
“It is the respect for private speech that the city is attempting to safeguard,” he said.
Paxton said in a press release that supervision from the Supreme Court in the case is “important because various circuit courts are using different standards to evaluate whether Ten Commandments monuments such as the one in New Mexico are constitutional."
Plaintiffs Jane Felix and B.N. Coone are represented by several attorneys and the New Mexico American Civil Liberty Union (NMACLU). When contacted for comment, NMACLU Communications Director Micah McCoy did not respond to interview requests.
The Bloomfield city attorney said the possible precedent setting case is not the point.
“The city of Bloomfield is not attempting to set any precedent or make any waves constitutionally; rather, the city of Bloomfield wants to allow its private citizens to have the freedom to continue expressing their free speech rights,” Lane said.
Paxton said in a press release that the Supreme Court's former rule that "a passive monument such as a Ten Commandments display, accompanied by other displays acknowledging our nation’s religious heritage, are not an establishment of religion," according to a press release. “Governments shouldn’t be forced to censor religion’s role in history simply because a few people claim they are offended by it.”
“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 have an interest in maintaining that practice, consistent with the Establishment Clause,” according to the amicus brief.
Lane said regardless of the outcome, "the city of Bloomfield is grateful for the overwhelming support of the citizens across our nation.”
The 23-state coalition includes Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
“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. Amici seek freedom to erect, authorize, and maintain constitutional displays on government property without the ongoing threat of wasteful litigation,” according to the brief.