The Freedom From Religion Foundation has ensured that an Arkansas government agency will not grant money to religious entities.
FFRF recently complained to the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District about the nearly $600,000 in grants it gave in 2013-14 to Ecclesia College in Springdale, Ark., an overtly religious institution.
Of the seven majors the college offers, five are theologically based; of its 14 emphases, nine are Christian. Students are promised they will be taught everything from a "biblical perspective" in a "biblical-based classroom."
The grants to the college violated both the Arkansas and the U.S. Constitution.
"The Arkansas Constitution clearly prohibits funding religious ministries," FFRF Diane Uhl Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote in a Feb. 22 letter. "And the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment strictly prohibits the government from advancing religion."
FFRF sought assurance that the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District would not allocate money in the future to Ecclesia College or other religious outfits. Joe Willis, executive director of the agency, promised in his reply to "make certain" that all future grants "will not be used to advance a religious purpose or cause," adding, "It is certainly not the intention of the NWAEDD to violate either the Arkansas or United States Constitution."
FFRF is heartened by Willis' response.
"Taxpayer money should not be used to subsidize religious entities," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "There are numerous non-Christian and nonbelieving Arkansans who do not appreciate their hard-earned tax dollars being funneled into such organizations."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a state/church watchdog organization with more than 23,000 members nationwide, including in Arkansas.