U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal of Ruling Declaring 10 Commandments Monument Unconstitutional

“The Supreme Court’s decision to let the rulings against the monument stand sends a strong message that the government should not be in the business of picking and choosing which sets of religious beliefs enjoy special favor in the community.”

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a ruling out of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that declared a New Mexico Ten Commandments monument unconstitutional. Two Wiccan women who took offense at the display had filed suit against the Decalogue placement in 2012, stating that it made them feel “alienated.”

The nation’s highest court gave no reason on Monday for its decision to not to take the case.

“This is a victory for the religious liberty of people everywhere,” Peter Simonson, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, remarked in a press release. “The Supreme Court’s decision to let the rulings against the monument stand sends a strong message that the government should not be in the business of picking and choosing which sets of religious beliefs enjoy special favor in the community.”

 

The ACLU had represented Wiccans Jane Felix and Buford Coone of the Order of the Cauldron of the Sage in its legal challenge against the monument, which has been on display at Bloomfield City Hall since 2011. A former city council member had proposed the monument four years prior, which was then approved by city council but paid for with private money. 

“Presented to the people of San Juan County by private citizens recognizing the significance of these laws on our nation’s history,” the Decalogue read, which was unveiled during a special ceremony.

Felix and Coone said that they were offended by the monument.

“Our clients who are not Christians, they took issue with this and it made them feel alienated from their community,” Alexandra Smith, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, told local television station KRQE.

The organization filed a lawsuit against the city in 2012, asserting that the monument’s presence on government property amounts to the government endorsement of religion. While the city argued before the court that the monument was historical in nature, the ACLU contended that the content of the Commandments themselves is blatantly religious.

“One of the commandments is thou shalt put no gods before me. This is clearly not a historical document, but is in fact religious doctrine,” Smith stated.

In August 2014, U.S. District Judge James Parker, nominated to the bench by then-President Ronald Reagan, sided with the Wiccans, declaring that the Decalogue violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“In view of the circumstances surrounding the context, history, and purpose of the Ten Commandments monument, it is clear that the City of Bloomfield has violated the Establishment Clause because its conduct in authorizing the continued display of the monument on City property has had the primary or principal effect of endorsing religion,” he wrote.

The city appealed, and in November, the 10th Circuit upheld Parker’s ruling, stating that the addition of historical monuments adjacent to the Ten Commandments did not fix the constitutional infirmities.

“[I]t was especially inadequate here because of the plain religious motivations apparent from the approval (approved alone), financing (sponsored entirely by churches), and unveiling (ceremony rife with Christian allusions) of the Monument,” the three-judge panel wrote.

“In light of those considerations, and the situational context of the Ten Commandments on the lawn, the City would have to do more than merely add a few secular monuments in order to signal to objective observers a ‘principal or primary’ message of neutrality,” it concluded. “Because we find an impermissible effect of endorsement that is insufficiently mitigated by curative efforts, we affirm.”

The city then sought an en banc, or full appeals court, review of the case, but the request was denied.

More than 20 states and over 20 members of Congress had joined legal briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the nine justices to hear the case, but on Monday the court passed on the matter. Only a few appeals are accepted each year by the nation’s highest court.

The religious liberties organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) expressed disappointment that the case would not have the chance for an appeal.

“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,” remarked ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman in a statement.

“In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court had the opportunity to 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.’ We hope the court will take advantage of a future case to resolve the confusion that reigns in the lower courts on this issue,” he said.

City Attorney Ryan Lane told the Daily Times that Bloomfield will now work with the private entity that placed the monument to have it removed.

written by By Heather Clark

Police in Pakistan Beat Christian Boy to Death, Father Says

Christian rights activists said the killing showed that religious intolerance was seeping into all sections of society, including government departments.

Police in Pakistan beat a 14-year-old Christian boy to death on Monday (Oct. 9) because he had gotten into a fight with a Muslim classmate who tried to bully him into renouncing his faith, sources said.

Mushtaq Masih, father of Arsalan Masih, said that his son was a student at a private center in Jhabran Mandi village, Sheikhupura District in Punjab Province. Arsalan was at the center when seven policemen from the Bahu Chowk Police Post arrived at about 5 p.m. in their official vehicle and stormed the premises, Masih told Morning Star News.

“Arsalan was attending his tuition classes at the Ideal Science Academy when Head Constable Imtiaz, Driver Rashid, Constable Arshad and some other unidentified policemen kicked open the door and dragged him out of the classroom,” Masih said. “Sardar, alias Billu, a police constable, helped them to identify the boy. With this, they all started beating Arsalan with fists, kicks and rifle butts.”
 
Teacher Farhan Ali tried to stop the assault, but the officers shoved and slapped him and continued beating the boy, Masih said.
 
“Rashid struck Arsalan’s head with a pistol, and he started bleeding,” he said. “When they bundled him into the police van, Arsalan collapsed and died. Later the police team threw Arsalan’s body on the roadside and fled.”
 
Numerous bystanders witnessed the assault, but the policemen threatened them if they intervened, he added.
 
Four months ago Arsalan had fought with a Muslim boy after the classmate tried to bully him into renouncing his Christian faith, said Masih, a member of the Presbyterian Church in Pakistan.
 
“I did not know about the fight until recently,” he said. “Arsalan had reportedly beaten up a boy whose uncle, Sardar alias Billu, is a constable in the Sheikhupura District police. Billu nurtured a grudge against Arsalan, and that’s why he brought his police friends with him to teach the poor boy a lesson.”
 
Masih said that he had registered a case (No. 653/17) with the Sheikhupura Saddar Police Station against seven officers, but that police had so far been unable to arrest them.
 
Accused Police Flee

Sheikhupura Superintendent of Police Sarfraz Virk told Morning Star News that he had ordered the registration of a case against the accused policemen and also suspended the in-charge of the Bahu Police Post for negligence in official duties.
 
“We are trying our best to arrest the nominated accused, who have fled the area since the day of the incident,” he said. “The boy was not wanted in any case, and it’s quite clear that the policemen had gone there on their own and misused their official authority.”
 
Sub-Inspector Safdar Javed of the Bahu Police Post told Morning Star News that he had just taken charge and was investigating the case.
 
“So far, no accused has been arrested,” he said. “My investigation till now has revealed that no case or complaint was registered against Arsalan with the Bahu police. The policemen transgressed their authority and will be brought to justice at all costs.”
 
He said investigators were taking into consideration the family’s claim that the killing was religiously motivated.
 
The maternal grandfather of the Arsalan, identified only as Pastor Shafqat, said that there were 300 to 400 Christian families in the Jhabran Mandi area.
 
“Fights do take place among boys from both communities over petty issues, but this is the first time a boy has lost his life,” he said. “The murderers didn’t even [have pained conscience] for a second that they were ruthlessly beating a 14-year-old boy. What had he done to deserve such a brutal death?”
 
The case has been taken up by the Pakistan Center for Law and Justice (PCLJ). Attorney Kashif Naimat of the PCLJ told Morning Star News that police were initially reluctant to register a First Information Report (FIR) against their colleagues.
 
“However, the police were forced to register the FIR after Arsalan’s family and other Christians blocked the main highway for several hours on Monday night in protest,” he said. “PCLJ has taken up the case voluntarily, and we will do our best to bring perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice regardless of their influence.”
 
In August, another Christian student was killed. On Aug. 27, 17-year-old Sharoon Masih was killed by a Muslim classmate during school hours in Punjab’s Vehari District because he had drunk water from a glass used by all students – an act many Muslims hold in disdain as they regard Christians as “unclean.”
 
Christian rights activists said the killing showed that religious intolerance was seeping into all sections of society, including government departments. Rufus Solomon, a leading Christian rights advocate, said it was tragic that another Christian boy had fallen victim to “extremist Islam.”
 
“The situation won’t improve for Pakistani Christians until the government repeals the blasphemy laws,” he said. “These laws promote extremism and encourage Muslims to force their views on members of the minority communities, particularly Christians. No government in Pakistan has the spine to take on religious extremism therefore our people will continue to suffer losses, both human and material.”
 
It is highly likely that police will favor their own colleagues even though the murder of the Christian boy took place in front of numerous witnesses, he said.
 
“Arresting the accused is one thing, taking the matter to its logical end is another,” he said, adding that like other departments, the Pakistani police too had double standards when it came to issues involving members of the minority communities.
 
Napolean Qayyum, another Christian rights activist, echoed Solomon’s views, saying he saw little hope for justice for the family of the slain boy.
 
“How many people actually believe that the police will build a strong prosecution against their own fellows? Not many, I’m sure!” he said, adding that no Christian political leader had shown interest in assisting the family in the case.
-Morning Star News
 

Somalia Suffers Worst Terrorist Attack in its History

Heartbreaking stories have been emerging from Somalia in the wake of the bombing…

At least 276 people have died in a deadly bomb attack on Saturday in what is being called Somalia’s worst terrorist attack in the country’s history.

BBC News reports that the massive bombing occurred in a busy part of Mogadishu, the country’s capital. No group has yet taken responsibility for the attack, although the al-Shabaab terrorist group is known for targeting the region.  

“The family is so shocked, especially our father who travelled all the way from London to attend her graduation, but instead he attended her burial,” said Maryam’s sister, Anfa’a.

Witnesses and survivors of the attack say it was unlike anything they’ve ever seen. Local resident Muhidin Ali said it was “the biggest blast I have ever witnessed, it destroyed the whole area.”

“What happened yesterday was incredible, I have never seen such a thing before, and countless people lost their lives. Corpses were burned beyond recognition,” added Mohamed Yusuf Hassan, the director of the Madina Hospital in Mogadishu.

Only 111 of the dead have been identified by family members. One hundred sixty-five others will be given a national mass funeral and buried by the government.

Heartbreaking stories have been emerging from Somalia in the wake of the bombing. One victim, Maryam Abdullahi, had been in medical school and was due to graduate the day after the bombing took place.

Maryam’s father had flown to Mogadishu to celebrate her graduation, but instead ended up mourning her death.

written by Veronica Neffinger