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Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.


Roundtable Resources on Public Funding
of Religious Buildings

Publisher: The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy

Roundtable Resources on Public Funding of Religious Buildings

The Bush Administration has made significant changes in federal policy to reverse the longstanding ban on the public funding of religious buildings. These efforts include revisions to rules affecting federal agency funding programs, broad interpretations of existing regulations, and support of legislation designed to promote a wide range of social service activities by faith-based organizations. To better understand these policy changes and their potential impact, the Roundtable project offers the following resources:


Roundtable Legal Analysis on Public Funding of Church Buildings

Roundtable Analysis of Justice Department Opinions on Federal Funding for Religious Buildings. In this article, the Roundtable's legal team at George Washington Law School reviews the recent opinions by the Department of Justice in support of federal grants for church-owned buildings. Professors Ira Lupu and Robert Tuttle analyze how these opinions support the Bush administration's newly announced policy change of providing public funds for religious structures. Click here to read the article.

Historic Preservation Grants to Houses of Worship: A Case Study in the Survival of Separationism

In this review, the Roundtable's legal team examines the extent to which government can provide loans and grants for the historic preservation of church buildings. In this article, Professors Lupu and Tuttle review both state and federal court decisions related to this issue, and analyze the legal trends that have taken place over the past century.Click here to read the article.

Analysis of Proposed Federal Agency Rulemakings

The Roundtable's legal team has released an in-depth analysis of proposed rulemaking changes and amendments by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development which seek to widen and enhance government support of faith-based social service providers. Click here to read the analysis.


Administration Policy Announcements on Federal Funding of Church Buildings:

Department of the Interior

In this agency news release, the Bush administration announced its change in policy to permit federal funding for church buildings. The announcement was made in connection with a Historic Preservation Grant for Boston's Old North Church. Click here to read the news release.

Department of Agriculture

In this agency news release, the department announced a $185,000 loan to fund a faith-based building used for food distribution and counseling center for the homeless. Click here to read the news release.


Justice Department Legal Opinions on Federal Funding of Church Buildings

Authority of the Department of the Interior to Provide Historic Preservation Grants to Historic Religious Properties such as the Old North Church

This opinion by the Justice Department concludes that the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not bar the award of historic preservation grants to the Old North Church or to other active houses of worship that qualify for such assistance, and the section of the National Historic Preservation Act authorizing the provision of historic preservation assistance to religious properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places is constitutional. Click here to read the opinion.

Memorandum Opinion for the General Counsel of the Federal Emergency Management Agency

In this opinion, the Justice Department found that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution did not pose a barrier to FEMA's approval of a disaster assistance grant for a religious school in Seattle which was damaged by an earthquake. Click here to read the opinion.


Federal Agency Rulemakings Related to Funding of Religious Buildings

Proposed rule changes from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development affecting public funding of buildings owned by religious organizations.

A brief overview of the federal rulemaking process, including a list of frequently asked questions.


Interviews with Federal Agency Officials Related to Public Funding of Church Buildings

Roundtable Interview with James E. Selmon, III, the Associate Administrator for Rural Housing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In this interview, Mr. Selmon discusses federal funding of church buildings by programs administered by the Agriculture Department.


News Articles Related to Federal Funding of Church Buildings

Roundtable News Story on the Veterans Administration Revising Proposed Rules That Would Ease Way for Faith-Based Providers

Washington Post News Story on civil liberties groups considering legal challenges to proposals by the Bush administration to use federal housing funds to pay for construction of buildings where worship is held, and to use vouchers to fund religion-oriented drug rehabilitation programs.

Associated Press News Story on a change of federal policy permitting Boston's Old North Church to receive federal grant money for renovations, even though it's still actively used for worship.

New York Times News Story on a plan by the Bush administration to allow religious groups for the first time to use federal housing money to help build centers where religious worship is held, as long as part of the building is also used for social services.

Washington Post Editorial on the Bush Administration's plan to allow the Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund buildings used for both social service and religious purposes (4th article in roundup).