Sunday, January 28, 2007

Metro Legal Responds to Questions About Metro Funding of Inner City Ministry

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

The Metro Legal Department, after a couple of e-mails, finally responded to my query regarding the change in their concerns about Ronnie Greer's resolution requesting $5,000 for the Churches of Christ's Nashville Inner City Ministry:

The Metropolitan Department of Law reviews all legislation before the Metropolitan Council to identify issues of legal concern to the Metropolitan Government. The Department of Law raised the concern that there could be religious entanglement problems with the funding request. The Department of Law stated in a memorandum that “a court could find that providing government funding to the Nashville Inner City Ministry, Inc., for transportation to life skills classes, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution.” (emphasis added)

Before the January 16, 2007, Council Budget and Finance Committee meeting began, the Inner City Ministry provided a supplemental letter to Council staff that stated unequivocally that the Life Skills classes would not involve Biblical teaching. The letter stated: “Life Skills classes are not Biblically-based and none of the funds will be used to promote religious beliefs.” Council staff informed the Council members of this new information at the Budget and Finance meeting, and later at the full Council meeting. The Council passed the resolution on January 16, 2007, and the Mayor approved it on January 17, 2007.

Outside of confirming a process that was already clear to observers like me, this response lent very little insight into their change of attitude.

Questions remain. Will there be any follow-up or monitoring the classes to verify that they will not be Biblically-based? What is the process of holding the non-profit accountable? Are we supposed to seriously accept that Churches of Christ teachers will not use the Bible or their religious beliefs in conducting these classes?

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