Atheists Sue Kansas City Over $65,000 Handout to Baptist Convention

Cranford, NJ—Today American Atheists and two Kansas City residents filed a complaint in federal court asking for a temporary and permanent injunction to prevent the City of Kansas City from giving $65,000 to Modest Miles Ministries, Inc. for the National Baptist Convention to be held in September.

Since April, American Atheists and the local plaintiffs, Joshua Stewart and Eric Abney, have been working to force the city to address the illegality of the funding under Missouri’s constitution, which prohibits public aid for religious purposes. Karen Donnelly of Copilevitz & Canter is serving as local counsel.

“The National Baptist Convention is inherently religious—and it is clear under Missouri law and the First Amendment that Missouri taxpayers should not be paying for it,” said Amanda Knief, American Atheists National Legal Director.

“This is a shocking violation of the state and federal constitutions. Direct funding of a religious ministry in the form of a cash handout is exactly the sort of action our founders and the framers of the Missouri constitution sought to prevent,” Knief added.

Modest Miles Ministries claims in emails to the City that the funds will be used for transportation to and from the convention, making the funding purposes “secular.” That would mean, according to Modest Miles Ministries’ funding application, about 25% of the entire budget of the convention—$65,000—is being spent on shuttles to and from the convention.

The $65,000 grant for the Baptist Convention was the second largest grant that the City gave in 2016. This was the fourth time the City has approved funding the National Baptist Convention: in 1998, the City approved $100,000 (about 32% of the convention’s total budget); in 2003, the City approved $142,000 (about 42% of the convention’s total budget); and in 2010, the City approved $77,585 (about 27% of the convention’s total budget).

American Atheists is asking the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri to enjoin the City from disbursing any funds to Modest Miles Ministries or the National Baptist Convention. The complaint also asks the Court to declare the $65,000 grant to be unconstitutional and award attorney’s fees.

You can read the complaint and the motion for a preliminary injunction here.

  • Allbrainsnogimmicks

    Keep up the fight!!!

  • EG

    Great Work!!!!!

  • Morgan Ryzen

    They should also be looking for a return of the other $319,585 that was illegally spent in previous years.

    • Rubberman99

      Agree. All those disbursements were illegal, and the officials responsible should be summarily removed from office!

    • Matt Purvis

      amen. pun intended

  • Blogvader

    Glad to hear it.

  • foghorn_legghorn

    Seems to me you need to prove they are giving preferential treatment to one convention over another or more correctly, one convention over another. If you could find enough athiests to MATCH their convention and the city DENIED you the same deal, THEN you would have a complaint. But then I’ve actually READ the constitution.

    • CW

      So they gave the same to Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Pentecostals, Seven-day adventists, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, Wiccans, and so on?

      Apparently, you may have read the constitution, but you definitely don’t understand it. You are an example of the failure our education system has had in producing critical thinkers in this country.

    • Will Lyon

      That wouldn’t work. Atheism is not a religion so it doesn’t violate this rule

      • Someone You know

        it IS a sect in a sense so it would work

        • Vance Vance

          Get off it and go look up the definition of sect. I don’t know why there exists a word describing a person who lacks belief or disbelieves in an unproven concept. There is no end to the number of ‘gods’ around the world and throughout history.

    • Angel Rivera

      Article 1, section 7 of the Missouri Constitution.

      “Section 7. That no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such; and that no preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship.”

      Source: Const. of 1875, Art. I, § 7.

      So, have you REALLY read the constitution? Cause the applicable bit is right there.

  • David Hagel

    foghorn: I read it, too, thanks to your comment. See below. Seems pretty clear the City should not be using any public funds for this purpose regardless of whether it’s discriminatory or not.

    Section 7. That no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such; and that no preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship.

    Source: Const. of 1875, Art. II, § 7.

  • Franklin Bacon

    Wouldn’t it be nice to do that for an atheist convention? No religion involved there, at all.

  • i m glad to read this blog. it is very impressive. i will appreciate the content quality. happy dussehra images

  • Thomas_T

    I will take it!

  • Thomas_T

    Seriously, were can I ask for this money for my conference in St. Louis?

  • Jackson Shredder

    Damn right !!

  • Ha 17 comments on such a huge, well known atheist site. Goodness, I should pray for you.

Copyright 2013 American Atheists