The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: (202) 466-3234,Joe Conn,Rob Boston,Sandhya Bathija

Americans United Opposes Proposed Congressional Land Grant to Religious School in Michigan

Giving Seven Acres of Land to Religious School Would Be Unconstitutional, Asserts Church-State Watchdog Group


Americans United for Separation of Church and State has urged U.S.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) to withdraw legislation that would grant
seven acres of Coast Guard land to Cornerstone Christian School in
Cheboygan, Mich.

The school has rented the property from the Coast Guard since 1986.
Stupak's measure, H.R. 1291, would allow the government to convey the
land to the school for free.

In a letter
to Stupak, Americans United explained that the land transfer would run
afoul of the U.S. Constitution's church-state separation provisions and
circumvent federal law governing the disposal of public property.

The government, AU asserted, cannot constitutionally give special
treatment to the religious school by transferring public land to it as
a gift. Public property can't be sold to a religious organization at
below fair-market value, AU said, let alone be given away for free.

"[T]ransferring the Coast Guard property to the religious school
for no consideration," AU wrote, "would reflect an unconstitutional
preference for and an endorsement of religion." The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United's executive director, said the issue is straightforward.

"The government should never fund religion," said Lynn. "Awarding
public property to a religious school clearly violates the Constitution
and flouts the interests of taxpayers."

Americans United's Oct. 14 letter to Stupak was signed by AU's
Legislative Director Aaron Schuham and AU's Assistant Legislative
Director Maggie Garrett.

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.