An atheist is suing to force the administrators of a towering cross in southern Illinois to return a $20,000 state grant toward its restoration, saying Thursday it was “blatantly unconstitutional” to spend taxpayer money on a Christian symbol.
Caretakers of the 11-story Bald Knob Cross of Peace near Alto Pass, Ill., some 130 miles southeast of St. Louis, insist the grant was legally awarded to the 50-year-old landmark in mid-2008 by classifying it as a tourist attraction, not a religious symbol.
Rob Sherman disagrees, pressing in his federal lawsuit in Springfield, Ill., that the grant violates the U.S. Constitution’s establishment clause used to argue a separation of church and state.
I don’t really care so much about the Bald Knob Cross and I think the atheist guy should get a life. I think this view of the establishment clause is ridiculous but the idea of religious based organizations labeling themselves as not religious but tourism hubs in order to attract taxpayer money is interesting and potentially disastrous.
How do we feel about the concept of Jesus as tourist attraction in order to gain taxpayer funding? Hey, I think there’s a future in this.
If your Church needs a new air condition don’t put out the collection baskets, state your case for taxpayer funding. I can see it now – Step right up folks. Step right up. Thousands of people come every Sunday from far and wide to this one location. The ride starts on Sunday but lasts for eternity and there’s no height limit.
So maybe we start marketing Christianity to our government overlords or perhaps everyone stops looking to the government to fund everything.
This is the danger of a behemoth government because normal people’s taxes will be so high that churches and other charitable organizations will suffer and will essentially have little recourse but to beg the government for funding to continue to exist. And the government might…but with strings attached. There will, of course, be demands of secularization. And if it comes down to a choice between nonexistence or a little secularization, we’ve seen that millions of dollars buys an awful lot of secularization.
In fact, this reminds me of something that happened two years ago. The Jesuit run university Saint Louis University was set to collect some mad Benjamins ($8 million to you and me) when some group of Masons protested that a religious organization was getting taxpayer money.
The Masonic Temple Association sued the school in 2004 by stating that The Missouri Constitution prohibits public funding to support any “… college, university, or other institution of learning controlled by any religious creed, church or sectarian denomination whatever.”
So hungry for the $8 million, the Jesuit University went about proving that it was not controlled by the Catholic church, or even by the ideals of the Society of Jesus. And the worst part is that they won. In a 6-1 decision, the court said SLU “is not controlled by a religious creed.”
So we should all turn away from the temptation of government funding. We should warn each other away from government funding like Odysseus did his crew from the sweet song of the sirens on the shore because they would mean their ruination. (Note: Odysseus’ whole crew all later died in increasingly horrific ways.)
The danger is that religious institutions will no longer be in the soul saving business but in the grant getting business.