The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging Alabama's capital county not to fritter away tens of thousands of tax dollars on a Christian institution.
A concerned local taxpayer contacted FFRF to report that Montgomery County has received a request from Valiant Cross Academy, located in the state capital, for an apparently unrestricted donation of more than $40,000.
According to the institute's website, "Valiant Cross Academy is an all-male private school ... based on Christian principles with an intentional culture of structure and discipline." Valiant Cross's mission statement begins, "The world does not need supermen. It needs supernatural men; men who will learn from their youth, to let go of self, to let the power of the Holy Spirit raise them to new heights."
A Montgomery County donation to Valiant Cross Academy would violate both the Alabama Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, FFRF contends.
"First, the Alabama Constitution clearly prohibits funding religious education," FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne writes to Montgomery County Administrator Donald Mims. "Alabama's Constitution erects a high wall of separation between state and church, and giving money directly to a religious school violates both the letter and the spirit of this provision."
Second, the Establishment Clause strictly prohibits the government from advancing religion. This means that the government may not "aid any or all religious faiths or sects in the dissemination of their doctrines," in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court. Requiring taxpayers to support a religious school violates this principle by aiding the school in disseminating its religious doctrines.
The Supreme Court has struck down discretionary grants to parochial schools that can be used to advance religion. And FFRF has successfully challenged direct cash grants to private religious schools in federal court (FFRF v. Bugher, 2001).
"Montgomery County officials would be violating the secular principles of their state — and the United States — if they agree to give away tax money to a sectarian Christian school," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "It would be egregious to force taxpayers who do not support this institution's religious worldview to fund it."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 30,000 members across the country, including in Alabama. FFRF's purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.