If you glance at page 72 of the budget bill unveiled on Monday and currently under consideration by North Carolina’s legislature, you’ll see a section allotting $250,000 to a group called Cross Trail Outfitters “for purposes of promoting wellness and physical activity.”
That sounds perfectly reasonable (as far as appropriations go, anyway), but a glance at the group’s website reveals its actual mission:
… Cross Trail Outfitters (CTO) is changing that by providing an opportunity to get them outdoors and teach them about our hunting and fishing heritage, while sharing our faith.
We want kids to know that life is different than what they see on TV or in video games. There’s a life out in God’s creation, and CTO is all about “Guiding the next generation to Christ through the outdoors.” We provide hunting and fishing, while ensuring a wholesome and fun environment in which the participants can grow in their knowledge and reverence of God.
So… this is really just a taxpayer-funded quarter-million dollar gift to a Christian ministry.
Rob Schofield of The Progressive Pulse noted how this is a church/state violation waiting to happen:
… Simply put, the overarching mission of this group is clearly to evangelize for a specific religion and now North Carolina taxpayers will be funding that mission directly. There is no indication at all that the group does any kind of youth work that does not involve promoting Christianity.
The General Assembly’ proposed appropriation is, therefore, by all appearances, indistinguishable from a direct appropriation to a church for, say, its youth ministry program.
The bottom line: If this doesn’t violate the First Amendment’s wall between church and state, it’s hard to say that anything would. Let’s hope the courts weigh in on this matter in the very near future.
He’s right. If this bill passes as is, you can bet church/state separation groups will file lawsuits that are about as guaranteed to go in their favor as anything they do.
Perhaps there’s an argument to be made that the Supreme Court already resolved this issue in the 2017 Trinity Lutheran case when they ruled it was legal for Missouri to give taxpayer-funded grants to a church… provided that the money was for a secular purpose (specifically, in that case, renovating a playground).
But there’s no secular aspect of what Cross Trail Outfitters does. Everything they do, including fishing and hunting, appears to be for the purpose of proselytizing.
There’s no way this is legal.
The only question is whether North Carolina legislators will have the good sense to eliminate that provision, but it may be too late. According to local news reports, “because [legislative leaders] have already said they plan to refuse any amendments or other attempts to change the budget, this plan is likely to become law as-is.”
A veto from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper won’t help either, since Republicans hold enough seats in both state houses to override it.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)