Ten Commandments part of history, N.M. city leaders to say in appeal of court order

Bloomfield, N.M., officials say this monument must stay for its historical importance.

Bloomfield, N.M., officials say this monument must stay for its historical importance.

The small, northwestern New Mexico city of Bloomfield is choosing orders handed down to Moses over one issued by a judge, but they say it is a matter of history, and not religion.

Leaders in the community of about 8,000, already under fire for refusing to remove a monument in front of City Hall, voted unanimously to appeal a federal court's order. The 4-0 vote, said city attorney Ryan Lane, stays the judge's order to remove the monument by the Sept. 10 deadline. Rather than fight the decision from the angle of freedom of speech and religion, Lane is going to present the monument as an historical document just like other monuments in the town depicting the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and Gettysburg Address.

"The city believes the Ten Commandments Historical Monument does not constitute government speech; rather, the city believes it has done nothing more than create a designated public forum in which private citizens have the opportunity to enact historical documents," Lane said.

The 5-foot tall monument was installed in front of the Bloomfield city hall on July 11, 2011. In 2012, the Albuquerque office of the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in federal court on behalf of Jane Felix and Buford Clone who opposed the monument.

"It violates the fact that there should not be any specific religion put forth as a state religion," Felix told the Farmington Daily Times.

Felix is a self proclaimed high priestess among Wiccans, a witch-like cult.

In his decision last week, U.S. District Court Judge James Parker said the court considered the issue a closed case because of how the monument was more prominently placed than others. He said if it had been placed with the others, "the first amendment may not have been offended."

Lane said the monument was paid for and installed by the Four Corners Historical Project, not the city.