Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 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

Monday, June 01, 2009

St. John's 2, American Atheists 0

You may know that a few years ago St. John’s did some façade improvementswith the promise of a matching grant from the downtown developmentauthority. This was a part of a large program to fix up buildings andparking lot edges in the neighborhood, and there were 3 Churches involved inthe projects as well as dozens of secular properties.

After the work was done, our reimbursement was stopped by a lawsuit by the American Atheists organization, arguing it was an unconstitutional to help Churches.
St. John’s parishioner and legal counsel John Nicholson put is in touch with the Alliance Defense Fund, a group that defends people and organizations for free in cases such as this. He took on the case, and we won a majority ofthe reimbursement, with the local judge carving out some exceptions. The American Atheists appealed, so the ADF also asked to court to reconsider the portion that was not reimbursed to us as well.

There is a chance the atheist may appeal to the Supreme Court. We will have to see. Offer up a prayer for that, and for the conversion of those souls who sued us (the atheists).

Below is a press story from the AP and an on-line agency
“Atheists lose lawsuit over Detroit's downtown aid
Associated Press and Charlie Butts (OneNewsNow) - 5/31/2009 4:15:00 AM

DETROIT, MI - A federal appeals court says the city of Detroit did not violate the Constitution when it partially reimbursed churches for renovations before the Super Bowl and other major sporting events.
After winning a bid to host the 2006 Super Bowl, the city in 2003 created a development program to reimburse up to half the costs of refurbishing downtown buildings and parking lots. Three churches received 6 percent, or$737,000, of more than $11 million allocated for projects.
American Atheists sued, claiming the city could not include religious organizations in the program. But the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Detroit intended to bolster its downtown -- not promote religion in general or any one faith in particular.
Alliance Defense Fund attorney Dale Schowengerdt, who represented St. John's Episcopal Church in the case, explains that city officials came up with theplan to reimburse property owners half of their exterior improvements, up to about $180,000. "And it's a very successful and a very popular program that made downtown Detroit look a lot nicer," he adds. "The church was simply responding to the city's plan for property improvements before the Super Bowl to present a positive image of the city."Schowengerdt is pleased the 6th Circuit upheld the program in whole. "In fact, it rejected all the American Atheists' claims and said listen, you don't have to exclude. In fact, the government makes it more constitutional if they include churches. That ensures neutrality and not hostility to religion," says the attorney.
The ADF legal counsel believes an appeal will be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, but he also believes the ruling will be upheld.”