FFRF Blasts Gov. Blagojevich Pledge of $1 Million to Rebuild Church

News Release & Action Alert

Our founders would have regarded this pledge as constitutional blasphemy.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national watchdog group working to keep state and church separate, has condemned Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s pledge of $1 million in state money to help restore Pilgrim Baptist Church.

It is unconstitutional to tax citizens to support a place of worship,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Foundation. “That is a basic tenet of our secular government, even in an election year.”

Blagojevich announced on Jan. 9 his pledge of $1 million in tax subsidy, following a Jan. 6 fire apparently caused during reroofing, in which workers sealed the coping with a blowtorch.

After church leaders announced plans to rebuild, Blagojevch, who is running for reelection, publicly awarded a state grant to rebuild what he termed “non-church” portions of the African-American church, such as the administration building, housing a school. The administration and school are church property and fundamental to its religious mission, Gaylor noted.

And money is fungible, Gaylor added.

“Obviously, this unprecedented public subsidy would free up a million dollars Pilgrim Baptist Church could put toward rebuilding the church itself or for any other religious purpose.”

Also puzzling is the need for a rebuilding fund: “Surely this church insured its facility!”

An attorney for the Foundation has sent a letter under the Illinois Open Records Act, seeking records on the capital project grant fund, as the first step toward a legal challenge.

“It was entirely appropriate for the governor to give $1,000 of his own money, and for members of the congregation and public to contribute privately.

“But it is impermissible to dip into the public till to rebuild or support a church. The founders of our country were so careful to create a secular government, which ensured citizens would never be tithed to support churches against their conscience. Our founders would have regarded this pledge as constitutional blasphemy,” Gaylor said.

To help protest the pledge of $1 million in tax dollars, contact:

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich
207 State House
Springfield IL 62706
(217)782-0244 (phone)
(271)524-4040 (fax)

To contact by email: http://www.illinois.gov/gov/contactthegovernor.cfm

Succinct letters concentrating on one or two points are most effective. Please write as an individual, rather than as an FFRF member. Thank you!

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is a national association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics) that has been working since 1978 to keep church and state separate.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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