South Bend, Indiana is home to the University of Notre Dame — so you can imagine how the city loves its Catholic population. But now they’re crossing the line.
Of course not. They want the South Bend Common Council to pay for it with taxpayer money.
Instead of saying “No” — which would be the legal thing to do — the city council searched for a way around the law. They knew they couldn’t give the school $1,200,000 directly. So they tried another method: Buy a Family Dollar store, demolish it, and donate the land to the school.
The city’s Common Council, despite concerns about constitutional separation of church and state, Monday night [June 27th] narrowly approved spending $1.2 million to buy a property on LaSalle Avenue and transfer it to St. Joseph’s High School.
The school plans to then demolish the property’s Family Dollar store building, which stands in the way of a football field planned for the new school on the former Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center site.
In fact, they voted 5-4 in favor of that idea.
Shady decision, no?
… the federal Constitution plainly forbids the government from donating valuable property to a religious organization for unrestricted use.
Americans United asks that the council abandon the transaction and allow St. Joseph’s to purchase this property on the private market. If the city purchases the land, it should be sold at fair market value to the highest bidder.
AU is considering a lawsuit right now, but first, they want to see certain documents which they’ve requested under FOIA.
At least one of the council members is worried:
Council Member Henry Davis Jr., who voted against the proposal, voiced concern over the city potentially shelling out mounting legal fees in the event of a lawsuit brought on by the national advocacy organization.
“I’m quite concerned about legal fees, and being able to handle a lawsuit of that magnitude,” Davis said.
“We have several federal cases against us that we’re paying out on right now,” he said. “Those are legal fees that would come from Washington, D.C. Those cases and those lawyers are not cheap.”
And it could all be avoided if other council members knew well enough to prevent public money from going to private religious schools. Maybe a lawsuit will give them the impetus they need to take a Civics class.
(Thanks to Beth for the link!)