April 2009 Church & State | AU Bulletin

 Americans United has asked the U.S. Department of Education to terminate a federal grant awarded to Grace College.

Grace College, an evangelical Christian school in Winona Lake, Ind., requires students to attend Christian chapel services and the curriculum reflects the school’s religious identity. The $191,593 grant was an earmark pushed by U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) and was approved as part of a budget bill in late 2007. 

Though the public funds are directed toward improving technology at the school, no safeguards are in place to ensure the money is used only for secular purposes. The grant also violates an Education Department regulation prohibiting grant recipients from participating in religious activities, AU’s Feb. 28 letter said.

AU said the college’s chapel mandate effectively discriminates in its admission process because only those willing to attend the services are admitted. That makes the school ineligible for receiving public funds. 

Souder said Americans United’s letter has “no leg to stand on” and insisted AU’s argument is “not viable.” 

“Let’s just say that I’m not a big fan of Americans United for Separation of Church and State,” he told the Times-Union, a Warsaw, Ind. newspaper. He accused AU of bias against Christians. 

John Boal, chief advancement officer for Grace College, told the Times-Union that the school is no different from religiously affiliated universities such as Notre Dame and should be eligible for similar grants. 

Grace also received a $1 million Homeland Security grant, which AU is investigating.