September 2007 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A federal judge has upheld grants that Detroit awarded to three urban churches for repairs before the 2006 Super Bowl.

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn ruled Aug. 8 that most of the $725,000 disbursed to three downtown churches did not violate the separation of church and state because grants were made available to all downtown property owners. He also held that the improvements to the churches’ landscaping, facades and lighting did not convey a religious message, the Detroit News reported.

Cohn did rule in American Atheists v. City of Detroit that the Detroit Downtown Development Authority subverted the separation of church and state by awarding the churches matching grants to improve their signs or stained glass windows.

American Atheists Inc., a non-profit advocacy group, sued the city in 2006 over public funding of the churches, arguing that the subsidies advanced religion in violation of the First Amendment.

A Minnesota attorney for the group, Robert Bruno, told the Detroit News, that the decision may be appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.