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 that would
get the money from the capital construction bill signed into law
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."
Department spokeswoman Marcelyn Love said the organizations
scheduled for grants must develop agreements with the agency on how
they will spend the money. That process reveals specifics about the
projects and allows the agency to evaluate each one.
"The department has internal processes and controls in place to
ensure accountability and proper use of public funds for all of its
grant programs," Love said.
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.
[to top of second column]
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
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 long-delayed capital program allowed lawmakers input about
spending in their districts. A debate has simmered for a decade over
how such grants should be disbursed. Legislators have argued that
they should choose because they best know their constituents' needs.
By JOHN O'CONNOR]
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