Monday, November 16, 2009

Can Federal Government Grant Land to Religious School?

In Cheboygan, Michigan, the U.S. Coast Guard has been renting some of its property to the Cornerstone Christian School. A Michigan representative (Bart Stupak) has proposed a bill that would transfer the property to the school for no cost. The organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) is opposing that measure. One reason they give is the so-called "separation of church and state" of the U.S. Constitution. They also cite current federal law regarding disposal of property.

AU's point may be reasonable in some ways. They don't mention the specific federal law about property that they believe this violates, but that could be a very important point. And the separation argument could be valid in some cases.

But let's look at the separation argument alone, since that is the main thrust of this blog. Suppose federal agencies occasionally give away property to various non-profit's. If that is so, then wouldn't disallowing such an action to one group solely because they are Christian be a lot like discrimination against religion? That would violate the Constitution. And my question is not entire out of my imagination. In other types of cases religion has been the only reason for a negative response to a group. Off the top of me head it seems like the most common type of discrimination is when a school denies use of facilities to a religious group. The Supreme Court has ruled that if facilities are generally available to the public, they may not be withheld from a religious group.

This is mostly a point of discussion. There may be ample reasons that the representative's bill is problematic. Depending on the arguments made, I might even agree with them. But if the main thrust of the objection is "separation" and if the government is in the habit of giving away property it does not need, then I would have an objection to excluding a Christian group from being a recipient.

Read more here:
Americans United Opposes Proposed Congressional Land Grant to Religious School in Michigan

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