FARMINGTON, N.M. — The city of Bloomfield is considering using online fundraising to pay the $700,000 it owes from the lawsuit regarding the Ten Commandments monument that was formerly located outside of City Hall.
Because the courts ruled the monument violated the U.S. Constitution and represented a government endorsement of religion, the city must now pay the legal fees for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the complaint in 2012 on behalf of two Bloomfield residents, Janie Felix and Buford Coone.
The non-profit law firm Alliance Defending Freedom provided Bloomfield with free legal representation throughout the litigation process.
City Manager Eric Strahl said Bloomfield until June 30, 2021, to pay the $700,000 that it owes for the ACLU’s legal fees. He said the city can choose to pay in installments or pay the entire amount in 2021. The city will not have to pay interest if it waits.
Strahl said he has been evaluating different online fundraising sites and may establish an account up to “see if there are like-minded people who supported the city’s position” who may be willing to help pay.
The monument was installed in front of City Hall in 2011. Shortly afterward, two residents sued the city alleging it violated their constitutional rights and represented a government endorsement of religion.
The city maintained that the monument was placed in front of City Hall by a local group that is not connected to the city. Bloomfield set aside the front lawn at City Hall for monuments of historical documents and had a disclaimer displayed saying the monuments do not necessarily reflect the views of the city itself.
Despite the disclaimer, thecourts ruled that a reasonable observer would interpret the monument as the government endorsing a religion. The city petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, but the high court declined the case.
The city asked the organization that owned the monument to move it off city property. It has since been relocated to property owned by a Baptist church.
Strahl said if the city is unable to raise money through donations to pay the $700,000, it will have to pay the sum out of its general fund.
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