The Freedom From Religion Foundation is strongly objecting to a Texas community college’s gift of public land and buildings to an area Christian school.
Weatherford College, a state-funded institution, has reportedly transferred at no cost a total of 39 acres along with six buildings to Community Christian School. “Weatherford College donated the complex to the faith-based school more than a year ago,” the local paper reports, quoting Doug Jefferson, the head of the school. FFRF has submitted a formal records request to verify the legitimacy of the transfer.
The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from favoring religion, including the funding and proselytization of Christianity, FFRF emphasizes. Community Christian School explicitly states doing that in its mission statement: “To serve families in Mineral Wells and the surrounding region by providing excellent biblically integrated education for children of prekindergarten, kindergarten, primary and secondary school age.”
“In Wirtz (2011), a federal court struck down a city’s donation of land to a religious school in exchange for public use of athletic facilities that the school planned to build on the land,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to Weatherford College President Tod Allen Farmer. “Here, Weatherford College has apparently given public property to Community Christian School at no cost, providing a special benefit to Community Christian School.”
Furthermore, FFRF adds, the government is prohibited from dispensing financial support or benefits to religious organizations, as the U.S. Supreme Court determined in Texas Monthly Inc. v. Bullock (1989). With the “donation” of the land and buildings, a financial benefit is provided to the Christian school that can be defined as unconstitutional.
Weatherford College appears to have violated the Establishment Clause by enriching a religious school using public resources. To clarify matters, FFRF is requesting public records pertaining to the transfer, including all records related to Weatherford College’s Board of Trustees discussing or approving any property transfers to Community Christian School.
The Texas Constitution likewise guarantees that no citizen “shall be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent” (Article 1, Section 6) and specifically prohibits appropriating public funds “for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary” (Article 1, Section 7).
“It’s a fundamental constitutional principle that in the United States, no citizen should be taxed to support someone else’s church or religious institution,” states FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The Establishment Clause firmly prohibits such religious subsidies.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 38,000 members and several chapters across the country, including 1,600 members and a chapter in Texas. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.