Memphis, Tennessee — August 12, 2016. The Center for Religious Expression (CRE) sent a letter to Shelby County officials today, countering the flawed arguments of Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a notorious atheist group. CRE’s letter confirms the constitutionality of a law that gives religious nonprofits equal opportunity to participate in a government program.
Under Tennessee law, T.C.A. § 67-5-2509, certain counties may grant property it has acquired through tax sales to nonprofits that seek to use the property for the betterment of the community. Shelby County has done so for a number of years, and it is little surprise that many of the qualifying nonprofits happen to be churches and religious organizations. But, discontent with religion in any context, FFRF sent a letter to Shelby County demanding they discriminatorily exclude churches and religious nonprofits from the program, simply because they are religious. FFRF insists that equal footing for religious organizations violates the First Amendment.
In the face of FFRF’s threat, Shelby County agreed to a moratorium, temporarily suspending conveyances to religious nonprofits, while awaiting clarification on the law’s meaning from the Tennessee Attorney General. Troubled by the decision, CRE intervened, sending a letter correcting FFRF’s incomplete and misleading legal analysis, showing that, far from mandating government hostility to religion, the First Amendment prohibits the religious discrimination that FFRF demands. CRE asks Shelby County to lift the moratorium.
“Once again, FFRF insists religious organizations be treated as second-class citizens,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “But the religious liberties set forth in the First Amendment are clear: religious groups must be afforded the same opportunity as any other group.”