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Indiana city rejects request to fund church expansion after FFRF warning

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An Indiana city has declined a church’s recent proposal after receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation raising serious constitutional concerns.

A concerned resident of Logansport, Ind., informed FFRF that the Logansport Redevelopment Commission was considering granting $40,650 to Revolution Community Church. Media reported that the funds would be used for landscaping, exterior painting and signage at the church’s new, expanded location. A church board member reportedly told the commission that “the new location will provide the space the church needs to grow. Over 800 people attended church there across three services on Easter Sunday... The new church will not only benefit its congregation... but the area it’s in as well.”

The church’s pastor also urged the Logansport Redevelopment Commission to award the funds, arguing that the community would indirectly benefit because, he claimed, 10 percent of the church’s funds go back into the city.

FFRF sent a letter to the Loganport Mayor Dave Kitchell informing the city that it is unconstitutional for the commission to use taxpayer funds to contribute to a church’s expansion project, regardless of any benefit the community may receive as a result.

“By the church’s own admission, the expansion ‘will provide the space the church needs to grow,’” Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne wrote. “Taxpayers have a right not to be forced to contribute to such a project… The church must fund the project itself.”

Because the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Indiana Constitution prohibit the government from financially supporting churches, Logansport may not give taxpayer funds to a church to help pay for their expansion to a new location, Jayne emphasized. Specifically, the government may not fund projects for buildings used for religious purposes.

FFRF noted that regardless of whether the city has a secular purpose in funding the project, doing so is unconstitutional, since the building involved is a church that openly seeks to expand its congregation and promote its religious services.

On April 25, Mayor Kitchell informed FFRF that the city decided not to fund the church’s project. Though contending that $40,000 for this project would be “hardly a major conflict,” he explained that “our redevelopment commission has chosen not to act on this request and others because it does not fall within the scope of what they think should be done with [Tax Increment Financing] money.”

FFRF applauds the city’s wise decision.

“The city cannot funnel taxpayer dollars into a church expansion project and force citizens to support the growth of a congregation,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The city of Logansport absolutely made the right call by turning down this request.”

This victory for secularism comes on the heels of a unanimous decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court in FFRF’s favor, putting a stop to millions of taxpayer dollars being used to repair churches across the state.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 33,000 members across the country, including more than 400 members in Indiana.

If you are an FFRF member, sign into your account here and then update your email subscriptions here.

To become an FFRF member, click here. To learn more about FFRF, request information here.

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