Americans United has warned officials in Boonville, Mo., not to give public funds to two churches to pay for restoration projects.
Officials in Boonville met in late November to decide how to distribute $850,000 in revenue from the Isle of Capri Casino. The so-called "850K Committee," appointed by the mayor, deliberated two nights before deciding how to spend the money. The largest shares will go to the city of Boonville and an organization called the Friends of Historic Boonville, but the committee also granted requests from other local organizations -- including two churches.
St. Matthew A.M.E. Church and the First Presbyterian Church of Boonville were given $85,000 and $25,000, respectively. St. Matthew wants to use the money to replace its stained glass windows and make its sanctuary handicapped accessible, while the Presbyterian congregation is seeking the money to replace its roof.
In a Nov. 29 letter to Boonville Mayor Bud Kemp, City Counselor Paul Wooldridge and Mayor Pro Term Morris Carter, Americans United attorney Margaret F. Garrett warned that the grants violate the separation of church and state.
"We are writing to inform you that these proposed allocations violate longstanding federal constitutional principles and should therefore be withdrawn so as to avoid legal liability," wrote Garrett. She noted...