Monday, May 01, 2006

Atheists sue to stop public grants to Detroit churches

Here’s an example of the kind of litigation I like to see:

An atheist group and a Detroit man are suing the city of Detroit and the Downtown Development Authority, demanding they recover about $690,000 in fix-up grants awarded to two downtown churches when the city was sprucing up for the Super Bowl.

American Atheists Inc., a group headquartered in New Jersey that promotes the civil rights of atheists, and Steve West of Detroit filed a lawsuit in federal court in Detroit, alleging the public grants to the churches violate both the U.S. and Michigan constitutions.

The Detroit News reported in December that Central United Methodist Church on East Adams and Second Baptist Church on Monroe were together approved for seven grants totaling $690,000 under the Lower Woodward Fagade Improvement Program.

The churches were to combine the grants with money of their own to fix up their building exteriors and parking areas.

"Such direct subsidies of religious organizations from taxpayer-derived funds violate the plaintiffs' rights to be free of taxation for the support of religious organizations," says the complaint filed April 7.

The lawsuit cites the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says Congress "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," and Article 1 of the Michigan Constitution, which says "no money shall be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of religious societies." [Paul Egan / The Detroit News]
Amen to the atheists--this is a case where you hope that someone will eventually have the courage to extend the logic to all redistribution of wealth.

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