Mayor Barbara A. Peryam
City of Casper
200 North David St.
Casper WY 82601
On behalf of Casper taxpayers and complainants, our national organization, which works to protect the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state, is writing to ask that you remove the Ten Commandments monument illegally located in a public-supported city park at 7th and Center Streets.
The legal tide has turned against such monuments in public areas, recognizing that their presence amounts to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, and of one particular "holy book." You can't have missed the brouhaha over rogue Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in Alabama. The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled this summer that the presence of biblical edicts on public property was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The 6th and 7th Circuit Courts of Appeals have also deemed these monuments on public property to be unconstitutional within the last year. The 10th Circuit has ruled that if the Commandments are not removed, then monuments to views deemed odd or unpopular by the public must be permitted. This has downed nearly a dozen decalogs on public property throughout Utah. Federal courts in Tennessee and Nebraska have recently ordered removal of the Ten Commandments from government property, and legal challenges are surfacing throughout the nation.
Last year the City of Milwaukee, at our organization's request, removed a monument that is identical to the one that sits on government property in Casper. The Ten Commandments marker in front of Milwaukee's city hall was the first such monument to be given to a government body by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in the 1950s, as part of a questionable campaign by director Cecil B. DeMille to promote his epic "Ten Commandments" movie. It speaks volumes that the first such abuse has now been remedied. Your Eagles monument is essentially a commercial advertisement for a very dated movie!
In Stone v Graham, 449 U.S. 39, 1980, the Court noted definitively: "The pre-eminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature. . . . The Commandments do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, . . . rather, the first part of the Commandments concerns the religious duties of believers: worshipping the Lord God alone, avoiding idolatry, not using the Lord's name in vain, and observing the sabbath day."
The First Commandment alone makes it obvious why the Ten Commandments may not be posted by government bodies. The government of Casper has no business telling citizens which god they must have, how many gods they must have, or that they must have any god at all!
We note that the city is now on record endorsing Protestantism. You have erected a "Protestant version" of the Ten Commandments, because the Catholic versions delete the reference to "graven images." Casper has a diversity of viewpoints: Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, and not religious. In fact the definitive American Religious Identification Survey (card enclosed) puts the nonreligious at 14% of the population, far outnumbering Jewish, Muslim or Mormons in our country. The right to be free from government-fostered religion is an American principle.
We would appreciate hearing from you at your earliest convenience so we may advise our complainants what action you are taking over their request. We know from experience that many churches or religious institutions will gladly step forward and offer to house this bible monument on private property, where it belongs.
Annie Laurie Gaylor
for FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION