Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 52 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ruling on the lawsuit with the American Atheists

This ruling has been generally in our favor! But we wait to see if the American Atheists will appeal.

Of course, keep praying for them. I would rather have their conversion than the money!
From the Detroit News

Some fix-up grants illegal
Money to spruce up churches for Super Bowl ruled unconstitutional.
Paul Egan / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- Certain fix-up grants a city agency promised Detroit churches as part of a program to spruce up the downtown for the 2006 Super Bowl violated the constitutional separation between church and state, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn ruled the Detroit Downtown Development Authority should not have awarded the churches matching grants to improve large signs in front or stained glass windows that contained religious imagery.
The signs and the windows convey religious messages, and government support for them violates the U.S. Constitution, Cohn said in a 46-page opinion and order.
But Cohn ruled most of the $725,000 in fix-up grants the agency promised three downtown churches did pass constitutional muster because any downtown property owner was eligible to apply and the church items the grants helped pay for -- which included improvements to lighting, landscaping and a steeple clock -- did not convey a religious message.
It's not clear how much of the total grants would be disallowed under Cohn's ruling, but most improvements were not to signs or stained glass windows.
American Atheists Inc. brought a federal lawsuit against the city agency last year, objecting to the grants approved under the downtown facade improvement program.
The Rev. Frank R. Leineke, associate pastor of Central United Methodist Church, said he is pleased with the ruling. The church on East Adams was approved for grants totaling $360,000. Leineke said the church borrowed money to pay for the work, and the delay receiving the grant money as a result of the court challenge has caused hardship.
"We were not advertising our religion; we were fixing up the building so the building gave a wholesome appearance," he said.
But Robert Bruno, a Minnesota lawyer for American Atheists, said he may appeal Cohn's ruling to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Direct grants to religious organizations are unconstitutional and "we think the judge didn't correctly decide the law in this case," he said.
You can reach Paul Egan at (313) 222-2069 or pegan@detnews.com.
From the Detroit Free Press
Agency, churches to collect grant money
Detroit's Downtown Development Authority and three churches Wednesday won a legal battle to collect $734,570 for fa├žade uplifts for the 2006 Super Bowl.
A federal judge ruled that all but several thousand dollars of the grants were justified even though a national atheist group said the expenditures -- made with public funds -- would violate the constitutional separation of church and state.
U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn said all of the expenditures were appropriate except for money spent on church signs and a stained-glass window that has religious symbols.
A development official said the DDA was pleased with the decision. The president of American Atheists of New Jersey said the group is considering an appeal.
Compiled by Ben Schmitt and David Ashenfelter