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Bloomfield seeks to crowdfund remaining balance of Ten Commandments lawsuit fees

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
The Bloomfield Ten Commandments memorial is pictured, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Bloomfield City Hall in Bloomfield N.M.

FARMINGTON — The City of Bloomfield is asking community members to help it pay nearly $500,000 that it owes to American Civil Liberties Union lawyers.

The city launched a GoFundMe fundraiser on Aug. 13 asking for help raising $467,000. As of the morning of Aug. 22, it had received $100 in donations.

"Given the overwhelming public support during the litigation, the City is reaching out to concerned citizens in an effort to help crowd fund the remaining balance owed in attorneys' fees," the GoFundMe page states. "The City appreciates all of the support private citizens can offer."

A nonprofit law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom, represented the city for free throughout the litigation process.

A Ten Commandments monument was located outside Bloomfield City Hall until 2017.

Because the courts ruled against the City of Bloomfield, it is required to pay the legal fees for the ACLU. The ACLU represented several Bloomfield residents who said the monument violated their First Amendment rights.

More:Bloomfield must pay $700K for lawyer fees in Ten Commandments case

The Ten Commandments monument is one of several paid for by a group of Bloomfield residents. Other monuments include the Gettysburg Address, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

The Ten Commandments monument was the first monument displayed in front of City Hall after the City Council approved turning the lawn into an area for historical monuments. It has since been moved down the street to a nearby church.

The Ten Commandments monument is seen on Thursday, May 31, 2018, at its new home, the First Baptist Church in Bloomfield.

Bloomfield initially owed the ACLU lawyers $700,000 and has until June 30, 2021 to pay the fees. It has already paid more than $200,000.

More:U.S. Supreme Court declines Ten Commandments case

“That $700,000 is a pretty good hit to a community our size,” said City Manager George Duncan.

Anything not raised from donations will have to be paid using the gross receipts tax and is currently budgeted. However, the city has been on a tight budget for several years.

“That money could have been used elsewhere for other services,” Duncan said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in November 2016 that Bloomfield must remove the Ten Commandments monument from the lawn in front of its City Hall.