Maryland expands eligibility requirements for grants to include secular nonprofits (November 15, 2019)

The state of Maryland has expanded eligibility requirements for its Protecting Religious Institution Grants to include secular nonprofits.

The state of Maryland had allocated up to $3 million in state funds to be paid directly to religious nonprofit organizations to the exclusion of secular nonprofits.

FFRF Legal Fellow Brendan Johnson wrote to the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention Deputy Director of Grants Mary Abraham pointing out that this program impermissibly excludes nonreligious nonprofits and risks funding religious activities. FFRF requested that the program be opened to all eligible nonprofits — not just religious entities — and that the funding be limited to entirely secular purposes.

The office’s legal counsel sent a letter of response recognizing the validity of FFRF’s state/church concerns.

“We agree that [secular entities] should have the opportunity to demonstrate the risks they face and the need for state assistance in protecting the facilities they use,” Deputy Legal Counsel Christopher Mincher wrote to FFRF. “We have therefore expanded the eligibility for the grants, now named ‘Protection Against Hate Crimes,’ to include all nonprofit organizations and communities at risk of such violence.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation