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Detroit Church Face-Lift Angers Atheists

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 5 comments

Atheists have sued downtown Detroit for including churches in a local community improvement project.

Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney Dale Schowengerdt says downtown Detroit wanted image repairs in preparation for the 2006 Super Bowl, so the City of Detroit Downtown Development Agency struck a deal with local establishments.

"Here the city of Detroit wanted to spruce up its downtown in anticipation of the Super Bowl and to spur some economic development, and so they offered all property owners downtown a matching grant to spruce up the exterior of their buildings," he explains.

According to an ADF press release, the contract between the city and local property owners said the city would reimburse half of the exterior improvements, up to $180,000. Dozens of properties entered into agreements to do just that, including three churches.

"Before the churches could be [reimbursed], even though they had already spent the money, American Atheists sued to enjoin the payment saying that it violated the so-called separation of church and state," Schowengerdt adds.

Schowengerdt is representing St. John's Episcopal Church in the case of American Atheists v. City of Detroit Downtown Development Agency. He contends the reimbursement contracted to the church was for non-religious purposes, does not establish religion, and therefore does not violate the Constitution.

He also notes that separation of church and state is not a part of the Constitution. Schowengerdt took the case to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Charlie Butts and Marty Cooper - OneNewsNow - 3/10/2009

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