The Freedom From Religion Foundation is charging that a Texas public community college is covering up details of its transfer of significant public land to a private Christian school.
FFRF recently objected to the gifting of land— including 39 acres and six buildings — by state-funded Weatherford College to Community Christian School. The state/church watchdog sent an open records request to verify the legitimacy of the deal, and determine whether a violation of the Establishment Clause and state constitutional provisions was committed.
Upon receipt of records related to the request, FFRF discovered that Weatherford College had explicitly asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for a public information decision related to the transfer of land, requesting that the exact details remain confidential.
The transfer began in late April 2021, when Director of Community Christian School W. Douglas Jefferson sent an email to Weatherford College asking for the price range of a building in Mineral Wells, where the Christian school is based and where the college has an education center. When told by the college that purchase of the building would need to be routed to its general counsel, Dan Curlee, Jefferson affirmed he was looking to purchase the land.
The gifting of land was decided at some point between April and June of the same year. An email dated June 2, 2021, from Jefferson to Curlee states that Jefferson was planning on making a first draft proposal between himself, Curlee and the Christian school before giving it to Weatherford’s board. In the email, Jefferson stated that “[t]he whole thing becomes one of those God things that He has to work out. We would need to sell and get the campus given to us. It would need to all get worked out.”
The emails FFRF did receive show a clear intent by the public college to benefit the Christian school. A Nov. 30, 2022, email from Brent Baker, the vice president of institutional advancement at Weatherford College, included a public statement from the college noting that the college had received the land from the federal government. “The federal government gifted the property to the college in the 1970s and thousands of students benefited over the years. Now, nearly 50 years later, the college is very pleased that [Community Christian School] will be able to use the property to the benefit of their students for years to come.”
FFRF affirms its previous stance that the transfer of land is unconstitutional. Weatherford’s exclusion of official documentation relating to this massive gift of public property to a private Christian school shows an attempt to mask the transfer.
“No public funds should go for the support of religious schools or ministries under our secular Constitution and the Texas state Constitution,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The records released by Weatherford College do not paint the full picture of the 'donation.'”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 39,000 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.