For Immediate Release
Illinois May Not Fund Religion, Americans United Warns State Officials
Church-State Watchdog Group Questions $40 Million In Grants To Religious Groups
WASHINGTON - Americans United for Separation of Church and State today challenged
Illinois state government’s plan to distribute millions of dollars in
state funds to religious organizations.
In a letter
to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity,
Americans United insisted that the Constitution clearly forbids the use
of public funds to subsidize religion.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed an
infrastructure-improvement bill allocating $40 million in grants to at
least 97 religious organizations within the state. The bill fails to
place any restrictions on these organizations’ use of the funds.
“We ask that you review all of the grants to recipients identified
on the attached list, as well as any other grants slated for religious
organizations, to ensure constitutional compliance,” AU’s letter
insisted. “Pervasively sectarian organizations should be denied the
funds altogether, and for all other organizations, restrictions and
safeguards must be put in place to prevent state funds from being used
to advance religion.”
Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said he is deeply
troubled by the constitutional implications of the Illinois grants.
“Government is forbidden by the Constitution to fund religion,” said
Lynn, who is an ordained minister. “When grants are made to religious
groups with no safeguards whatsoever, the rights of taxpayers are
clearly being infringed.
“No American should ever be forced to
contribute money in support of religion,” Lynn continued. “The state of
Illinois needs to move swiftly to ensure that public funds are not
being misused for religious purposes.”
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.
Americans United’s protest to Illinois state officials was joined by
the Anti-Defamation League. The letter was drafted by AU Legal Director
Ayesha N. Khan and Staff Attorney Ian Smith.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.