FFRF objects to Chicago taxpayer money granted to church

1Chicago-emblemThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is questioning the Chicago Department of Planning and Development’s unconstitutional funding of a local church.

A concerned local taxpayer contacted FFRF to report that the department awarded a grant to the First Church of Deliverance under the Adopt-a-Landmark program. Public records related to this grant reveal that the funds, totalling more than $220,000, will be used to advance the church’s religious mission, in violation of both the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions.

When the First Church of Deliverance applied for a grant under the Citywide Adopt-a-Landmark program, the church’s application stated that the project “will further the mission of the church.” The church explained that the renovations will attract visitors to the church, many of whom the church expects will “remain and become part of the body because they find solace, services and support vital for spiritual and natural growth.”

The church received the funds not just for external restoration, but also internal work, including two painted murals displaying religious iconography. The church’s application emphasized multiple other ways the grant money would expand its services, including an after-school tutoring ministry.

It is unconstitutional to force Illinois taxpayers to support a religious ministry, FFRF reminds the department.

“The $228,000 grant to the First Church of Deliverance violates both the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne in his letter to Commissioner David L. Reifman. “The DPD must withhold any taxpayer funds not already given to the church. The DPD should amend its policies to ensure that similar violations do not occur in the future.”

FFRF is requesting assurances that future Department of Planning and Development grants will not be awarded to repair or support active houses of worship and that any funds that have not already been given to the First Church of Deliverance will be withheld.

“It is completely inappropriate for a taxpayer-funded grant to be used to underwrite a church’s religious mission,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “It is a violation of Illinois taxpayers' federally and state-protected rights of conscience.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 32,000 members across and several chapters across the country, including over 900 members in Illinois and a chapter in Chicago. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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