Illinois May Not Fund Religion
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinois should move carefully when awarding $40 million or more in state funds to religious organizations, two national activist groups warned Wednesday.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Anti-Defamation League told state officials that they’ve identified at least 97 religious organizations [my emphasis] that would get the money from the capital construction bill signed into law last month.
They pointed out in a letter to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity that the constitutional separation of church and state forbids using tax dollars for religious purposes and that the grants carry no restrictions.
“When grants are made to religious groups with no safeguards whatsoever, the rights of taxpayers are clearly being infringed,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of the Washington-based Americans United. “No American should ever be forced to contribute money in support of religion.”
Without watchdog groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State, this news would never come to light and most of us would not know about it.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed a $31 billion infrastructure improvement plan last month aimed at improving roads and bridges, but also included millions in grants to local organizations. There could be more groups with religious affiliations than the 97 that the Americans United and the Chicago-based Anti-Defamation League counted because their names don’t immediately identify them as such.
Among grants that the groups want reviewed are $75,000 for capital improvements to the library at the Chicago Baptist Institute; $100,000 each for renovations at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, St. Ann Catholic School and St. Paul Parish; and $50,000 for a housing project by the Lawndale Christian Development Project.
Citing numerous court cases, the two groups asked the department to review all the grants it releases to ensure that none support religious activities. They want the state to require recipients to sign statements that they won’t use the money for religious purposes.
The groups want the agency to ban grants to sectarian organizations or those that, according to court rulings, cannot separate their religious missions from secular ones.
The Chicago-Tribune reported that the bill earmarks $250,000 for renovations to the Friendship House of Christian Service in Peoria, awards $150,000 for “facility improvements” at the Salaam Conference Center of Muhammad’s Holy Temple of Islam in Chicago and assigns $700,000 for capital improvements at St. Malachy School, a Catholic elementary on Chicago’s West Side, among many others.
Sneaky religious bastards!