Secular organization Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently challenged an Alabama county commission’s decision to donate $3,000 of public funds to a local evangelical Baptist church. In its letter of complaint, FFRF alleged that the county commission’s decision was a blatant constitutional violation of the separation of church and state.
In mid-October, the Covington County Commission accepted a request from Commissioner Harold Elmore who wanted to donate taxpayer money to the Covington Baptist Association so it ccould refurbish its men’s ministry program.
“They’re going to meet once a month, and it’s nothing but men,” Elmore, who also serves as a deacon in the Judson Baptist Church, explained. “They’ve done a lot of work on it down there. They come to me and asked me for our help.”
According to local media, the church has been seeking donations so it can renovate the Old Stanley School House, which is a piece of property owned by the church and used for its monthly men’s ministry meetings. The church describes these meetings as a nationwide outreach program for non-churched men and offers them free of cost steak dinners in an attempt to recruit leaders who will be responsible for convincing nonbelievers to convert to Christianity.
FFRF’s letter was addressed to Covington Commission Chairman Bill Godwin, in which the organization accuses county officials of breaching constitutional provisions guaranteed to residents of Alabama as well as the United States. According to both constitutions, the state cannot use any taxpayer money to fund religious events.
“There couldn’t be a more flagrant violation of the Constitution than a direct cash donation to a Christian ministry for the purpose of promoting church-going,” Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, said in a press release.
Currently, the secular organization is demanding the commission reverse the grant and retrieve all public funds that have been donated to the Baptist ministry.
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