Sep 15, 2011

On June 9, 2006, AU filed both a complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order against the City of Baltimore and the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., to stop the city from disbursing $297,500 in taxpayer funds to the Convention. The final appropriation text stated that the funds were intended to support a Convention-organized event to feed the hungry, entitled the "Bags of Love Outreach," during which volunteers would distribute lunch sacks containing food, a Bible, and salvation tracts to 1000 poor people. In opposition to our motion, the city claimed that, despite the appropriation’s plain language, only $5000 would go to the outreach event, and that the lunch bags would no longer include Bibles or salvation tracts. The city also claimed that the rest of the appropriation would help underwrite the costs associated with the Convention and the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education’s week-long annual meeting, which was held in Baltimore in June. Despite AU’s argument that these alternate uses for taxpayer funds were no less unconstitutional than the "Bags of Love" outreach, the district court judge denied our motion for a temporary restraining order. But the judge did require that the Convention inform all participants in the Bags of Love outreach that, because the event was partially funded by taxpayer dollars, proselytization and distribution of religious materials was prohibited. After learning that the Convention ultimately decided not to accept any funds in support of the Bags of Lunch outreach, AU voluntarily dismissed the case, as we had achieved our main goal of avoiding the direct governmental funding of religious proselytization. But we continue to investigate the details of the city’s transportation and convention-hall-rental subsidies to the National Baptist Convention, as well as other instances in which the city has given funds for religious conventions.