Back in April, the Kansas City Council (in Missouri) unanimously approved a $65,000 grant to Modest Miles Ministry so it could host the National Baptist Convention. Tax dollars were literally being used to promote religion.
The city offered a flimsy defense: The money was only going to be used for shuttle buses to and from the convention center… as if transportation to a religious conference was somehow a secular use of public money. Which makes as much sense as saying the money covered travel expenses for conference speakers, but since they weren’t riding on Christian planes, the costs are constitutional.
If that’s the best argument they had, this was going to be a quick court battle.
Well, the Baptist conference is quickly approaching and organizers are freaking out because they were relying on taxpayers to cover their butts.
“All of us are in tears,” [Rev. John Modest] Miles said of himself and other local organizers working with the National Baptist Convention. “I’m up at night praying. That’s all I know to do.”
Miles said he did not know where a replacement source of funds might emerge. He’s scheduled to meet Friday with city officials to explore other options. City Manager Troy Schulte said this week that the only option is to raise the money from private sources, and the city will try to help Miles with that outreach.
“At this time, we will not be using public money,” Schulte said.
It’s the right move on the city’s behalf, and it’s hard to feel bad for the organizers. They should’ve known better than to ask the taxpayers for help in running their religious conference. Just because it’s bringing thousands of people to the city — who will spend money in the community — doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that it’s a religious event.
As for the $65,000 in NTDF funds, city officials said it will roll back into city coffers and will be available for other tourism-related applicants that have a secular purpose.
That’s exactly how the money should be used.
Why not just ask churches to pitch in? They’re not paying taxes. They get members’ tithes. If all that money can’t be used to run a Baptist convention, maybe they shouldn’t be hosting one at all.