AU Opposes Proposed Congressional Land Grant To Religious School In Michigan

Giving Seven Acres Of Land To Religious School Would Be Unconstitutional, Asserts Church-State Watchdog Group

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has urged U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D–Mich.) to withdraw legislation that would grant seven acres of Coast Guard land to Cornerstone Christian School in Cheboygan, Mich.

The school has rented the property from the Coast Guard since 1986. Stupak’s measure, H.R. 1291, would allow the government to convey the land to the school for free.

In a letter to Stupak, Americans United explained that the land transfer would run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s church-state separation provisions and circumvent federal law governing the disposal of public property. 

The government, AU asserted, cannot constitutionally give special treatment to the religious school by transferring public land to it as a gift. Public property can’t be sold to a religious organization at below fair-market value, AU said, let alone be given away for free.

 “[T]ransferring the Coast Guard property to the religious school for no consideration,” AU wrote, “would reflect an unconstitutional preference for and an endorsement of religion.”
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United’s executive director, said the issue is straightforward.

“The government should never fund religion,” said Lynn. “Awarding public property to a religious school clearly violates the Constitution and flouts the interests of taxpayers.”

Americans United’s Oct. 14 letter to Stupak was signed by AU’s Legislative Director Aaron Schuham and AU’s Assistant Legislative Director Maggie Garrett. 

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.