FFRF asks Texas city to halt construction of a private church road

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is insisting that a Texas city cease its unconstitutional financial support of a church.

Documents received by FFRF have confirmed the reports of a local complainant that the city of Del Rio intends to pave a private road owned by the First Baptist Church at the request of the church’s director. Communications contained in the records make it clear that the city is well aware that this property is private church property that was abandoned by the city in the 1970s. The records also indicate that the city is aware that spending public funds to support a private church is inappropriate.

An email communication that the city received from Jimmy McDonald, First Baptist Church’s director, reveals that this entire project was started at his request and that the decision to declare the church an emergency shelter is simply an after-the-fact rationale for spending public funds to repair private church property. A copy of this communication is attached here

It is unconstitutional for the city of Del Rio to fund a private road for a church, FFRF reminds Del Rio officials. The city has singled out the First Baptist Church for preferred status and a financial windfall at the expense of local taxpayers. The purported secular purpose of paving the road in exchange for the church’s use as an emergency shelter is a sham and does not excuse the fact that the government is funding a private road in support of a place of worship.

“The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from financially supporting churches,” FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line writes to Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano. “The city of Del Rio may not use public resources to support a church.”

FFRF is requesting that the city cancel this unconstitutional project immediately and also provide written assurances that the city will not use public resources to financially support churches.

“It’s wrong to tax citizens of any or no religion to benefit one church,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The U.S. Constitution has made it clear: Governments at any level can’t fund religious institutions.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit founded in 1978, has more than 31,000 nonreligious members, including almost 1,300 in Texas.

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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