Ten Commandment Monument
Public Art: Ten Commandment Monument
design by Brown and Bigelow
Description: Non denominational Ten
Commandments etched onto red Minnesota granite tablet. The text includes symbols from both Judaism and
Christianity, including the Star of David, "all-seeing eye" and Chi & Rho. It also features the patriotic
symbols of the eagle and the American flag.
Location: In Lincoln Park
located on the Colorado State Capitol grounds , Denver, Colorado, United States.
Funded by: Fraternal Order of Eagles
Created at: Mihelich Monument Company of St.
Original Cost: A 5ft monolith cost $200 and
a 6ft one cost $325.
History: The Ten Commandment
monument was unveiled in the Colorado State Capitol grounds in 1956 and from then on has been shrouded in
controversy. The main bone of contention was that many citizens felt uneasy about placing a religious object
on tax-supported property. Why some thought it was okay to symbolize the religious foundation of America, others
were not so sure, seeing it as a symbolic gesture of the unity of church and
state. In 1989 this small stone
tablet met head on with controversy. The commotion went all the way to the Supreme Court of Colorado.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged the placement of a religious monument in a city
park. They went to court to have the Ten Commandments monument removed from the Capitol
grounds. In fact there were three identical monuments being argued, one in Denver, Salt Lake City and
In 1992 the trial judge ruled that the Ten Commandments were the basis of constitutional law but, believe it or
not, in June 1993, the Foundation won the case before the Colorado Court of Appeals. The State Supreme Court in
November 1994 reversed the appeals court ruling, and the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1995, refused to take the case. The
Colorado Supreme Court found that the placement of the monument, in Denver’s park was not a violation of the
constitution, concluding that it was not erected with the purpose of endorsing religion. When I filmed the
monument in 2007 no one gave the tablet a second look.
Background to the Ten Commandments Monument: The
monument had been donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles as part of a progam established in the
1940's. The program was the brainchild of a Minnesota judge, E. J. Ruegemer (1903-2005), who believed juvenile
delinquents needed to have a "code of conduct" in which to govern their actions by. He used the ten commandments as
an example, being one of the earliest known codes, to make his point. At the same time he made it very clear he was
not using the commandments to endorse religion but simply to show that all of the laws in the country
dealing with human relations were based upon those ten. The judge then began posting copies of the
commandments in State Juvenile Courts around the country as part of a nationwide youth guidance program. Also being
chairman of the Youth Guidance Committee of the Fraternal Order of Eagles he tried to persuade the Eagles
into financing the program. They rejected the idea on the grounds that it might be seen as too sectarian. Not happy
with the decision, the judge organised representatives from the Jewish, Protesant and Catholic faiths to develop a
version of the commandments which would be non denominational. The Eagles finally agreed to financially support the
youth guidance program. Cecil B.DeMille (famous film producer), who began filming the movie "Ten Commandments" in
the 1950's, got wind of the judge's youth program and rang him. DeMille suggested that the new version of
the commandments could be distributed via bronze plaques around the country to promote not only the youth program
but his new movie (of course). The judge liked the idea but thought it better to have the commandments placed on
granite tablets. The Eagles funded the project and donated the monuments to several local and State governments.
DeMille allowed several of the actors from the movie to help unveil some of the granite
The Ten Commandments
I AM the LORD thy God
I Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
II Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord
thy God in vain.
III Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
IV Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy
days may be long upon the land which the
Lord thy God giveth thee.
V Thou shalt not kill.
VI Thou shalt not commit adultery.
VII Thou shalt not steal
VIII Thou shalt not hear false witness against
IX Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.
X Thous shalt not covert thy neighbor's wife, nor
his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his
cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.
by members of
Fraternal Order of
Commandment Controversies: In 1985 the
Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging a Ten Commandments monument in a public park in La
Crosse, Wisconsin, donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
In 2001 American Civil Liberties Union filed suit to relocate a monument inscribed with the Ten
Commandments. The group opposed the presence of the monument outside the Grand Junction City
Hall. In response hundreds of Grand Junction residents packed the council chambers to voice support for the
In 2006 The Society of Separationists dropped its efforts
to force the removal of a Ten Commandments monument in Pleasant Grove, Utah.
There are believed to be 145 Ten Commandment monuments scattered through out 34 states. It is unknown
where all of them are or if they are still in their original location as many had to moved due to the ongoing
Where are they now?
1954 presented to the City of Chicago
1956 Martha Scott(actress) presented a monument to Pittsburgh.
1956 Charlton Heston presented one to International Peace Garden on the North Dakota-Canadian border
1957 Yul Brynner presented one which became the corner stone for an addition to city hall in
Thought to Ponder: