For more than six years, the city of Bloomfield, New Mexico tried defending an illegal stand-alone Ten Commandments monument outside a local municipal building.
The monument was put up for overtly religious reasons in 2011, which is why it was ruled unconstitutional by multiple courts. Instead of accepting that result, however, city officials were goaded by the Christian Right to fight back. The ACLU warned them not to do it since the law was very clear on this topic… but they didn’t listen. Eventually, in February of 2018, they ran out of appeals and owed the ACLU $700,000.
Last June, city officials released a proposed budget that included that major payment.
The preliminary fiscal year 2019 budget calls for about $12.2 million in expenditures. The city estimates nearly $12.5 million in revenue.
The preliminary fiscal year 2019 budget calls for paying $233,000 toward the money it owes from the Ten Commandments lawsuit. The city can either make payments or pay the entire $700,000 in 2021.
In other words, given the option of making three payments over three years or paying everything in 2021, they chose to make three payments. If you did the quick math, that meant 1.9% of the budget would be spent on covering their legal bills. It was like a special Bloomfield-only Tax for not listening to the ACLU.
Well, now the story’s even more complicated.
According to the Farmington Daily Times, the city is asking residents to chip in to help them cover the remaining $467,000 of what they owe. Brad Ellsworth, the city’s Finance Director, literally set up a GoFundMe campaign to cover their own asses.
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 City appreciates all of the support private citizens can offer.
They’ve raised $600 of the $467,000 they want. (Most of it came from one guy who chipped in $500 yesterday.) Where are the churches? Where are the religious citizens who wanted this monument? Where are the ADF lawyers who told them fighting this battle would be a good idea?
Why should residents of Bloomfield have to pay out of their own pockets because their elected officials refuse to obey the law?
“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.
I feel no pity for them. They chose to promote Christianity instead of following the law, and they need to deal with the consequences.
Remember: They’re in this bind both because of their own ignorance and because they were dumb enough to accept the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group that didn’t charge them anything, but didn’t give them good advice and left them with the hefty bill after they lost.
Citizens will be paying the price — literally — for their government’s ineptitude for years to come. Next time, they should just listen to the smart people instead of conservative Christians whose only goal is preserving their own false sense of supremacy.
(Thanks to Beverly for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)