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Church and state

Tuesday, Jan 10, 2006

I’ve noticed an increasing amount of comments about this topic, so I figured it deserved its own thread.

There has been some controversy over Governor Rod Blagojevich’s pledge to donate a million dollars in state capital funds to the reconstruction of a building owned by the Pilgrim Baptist Church.

To people who might raise church and state questions, the governor’s office says it’s going to the school, not the church.

But then there’s the question of state dollars going to a building covered, in part, by insurance and donations.

Not everyone supports the idea.

“I don’t think he should be giving state dollars too when those dollars can be going to somewhere else,” said Chicago resident Willie Braboy. “When they get money from here, there and everywhere, and they can build that church up with them other funds, he could be giving them to another cause.”

The church is vitally important to its neighborhood and is believed to be the birthplace of gospel music, so I, for one, can see the need for state help. Others disagree.

I can also understand that some people feel this is just more grandstanding on the part of a politician perpetually running for re-election.

Governor Rod Blagojevich came to the St. John Missionary Baptist Church Monday night to score points with a huge audience of African-American churchgoers.

Maybe, but, like I said, I think it’s a worthy cause.

What kinda bothers me is some of the coverage of the governor’s pledge. Last night at least one Chicago TV report (no link available at the moment) made it sound as if the governor was pledging his own money to the rebuilding effort.

And this headline on WBBM Radio’s website is particularly egregious:

Governor Donates $1 Million to Rebuild Historic Church

Um, no.

First, it’s not his money. And second, he wants to help rebuild the school and administration building, not the church.

UPDATE: A couple of good points were just made in comments.

What about all of those Illinois First building projects, the legitimate ones such as fire stations and community centers, mostly downstate that are still waiting on the funds Blago has frozen for the past three years?

The church will have numerous donors to help in their rebuilding efforts - and I would hope the roofers who started the fire had some type of bond or insurance that would be liable for the damages.

UPDATE 2: And, despite what Zorn is writing, former state budget director Steve Schnorf makes a very good point in comments.

State government has been making grants and awards to the non-church parts of religious groups forever; textbook grants to church schools, transportation funds for church schools, construction grants to religious-operated schools, etc.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


35 Comments
  1. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 11:59 am:

    If my house burned down, would I get money from the state? Not likely. That’s why I buy insurance. I don’t see why the church should get any special treatment.

    Due to the historical nature of the church, perhaps they should be eligible for a special loan from the state (similar to loans given to disaster areas), but I don’t see why they should get a grant.


  2. - Anon - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 12:12 pm:

    What about all of those Illinois First building projects, the legitimate ones such as fire stations and community centers, mostly downstate that are still waiting on the funds Blago has frozen for the past three years?

    The church will have numerous donors to help in their rebuilding efforts - and I would hope the roofers who started the fire had some type of bond or insurance that would be liable for the damages.

    Blago is playing for votes.


  3. - insider - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 12:18 pm:

    I’m no Blagojevich fan, but let’s give credit where credit is due: news reports have quoted him saying that he’s making a $1,000 personal contribution to the rebuilding fund.

    But you’re absolutely right, Rich, “Governor donates $1 million” headlines are completely misleading. Somebody actually gets paid to write sloppy headlines like that?


  4. - Ex Churchman - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 12:19 pm:

    Regardless of whether the money is going to the “school” or church, state money should not be used to resurrect this building. I agree with the first 2 posts. Hair do’s assertion that the money isn’t going to the church is just like all his other denials - “It isn’t what it appears to be….”


  5. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 12:27 pm:

    As I’ve been saying….Blago doesn’t need a campaign fund, he has our money. Perhaps sitting governors should be prevented from raising any campaign re-election monies at all, since they have so much already via state coffers.

    This is clearly a case of government and religion getting too cosy, but the faith-based approach to giving out state monies is hardly limited to Blago and the Dems.

    Could Blago be getting a little nervous about
    Eisendrath. After all, African Americans are
    monolithically Democratic in their vote, so even
    JBT, a moderate, can expect about 0-1 African American votes. Blago has nothing to fear with respect to the African American vote in November.
    But there is that primary…..

    Or maybe it’s reward money…there’s been a lot of it…for this group’s support in the last election.


  6. - DOWNSTATE - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 12:40 pm:

    Like I said earlier other churches have burned down,been destoyed by flood and tornados.Not once has the state stepped in.This is somemore of his people staying on just this side of legal.Someone should take it to coury.Well is the ACLU?We have to get this guy out of office.


  7. - just wondering... - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 12:48 pm:

    …maybe Chris Kelly was the roofer?


  8. - Hairbrush - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 12:59 pm:

    Has anyone noticed lately that the only time Rod has a “new” policy is after he reads the front pages of Chicago newspapers? Some leader.


  9. - ONEMANCANMAKEADIFFERENCE - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 1:22 pm:

    I disagree wholeheartedly with the Governor’s decision to donate the states money to rebuild a school owned by the church.

    School funding was an issue reported two days prior to the Governors decision and I know he and his staff knew about it and this proves that his motives were merely political!

    See the attached ABC 7 link from a story just reported last Friday, four (4) days prior to this decision.

    http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=special_coverage&id=3786489

    and Jesse Jackson came out too, to assist I believe Harper high school because it’s bathrooms were in terrible condition. You can still view the video on the website.

    If Blagojevich truly wanted to help schools he would have responded to the ABC 7 news segment:

    Fighting for School Funding

    And I just might send him a letter telling him the same.


  10. - Papa Legba - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 1:26 pm:

    It was my impression that the state is a bit short on money, and has been for quite some time now. Am I wrong in this thinking?

    It seems that this is not the first “out of the blue” grant he has pledged in the last week or two.

    Why isn’t this money being used for the workers comp payments that are suspended until Oct 2006?

    Why isn’t this money being used to help clear up the backlog of payments to Medicaid providers?

    Why does it seem that these “grants” seem to be going only to ethnic communities? Or is the attendant media coverage just seem excessive due to these announcements being on slow news days such as Sundays?

    I always thought one had to apply for a state grant, usually in a competitive situation. Has that changed while I was enjoying the Holidays?

    Suspect motives at work - plain and simple!


  11. - Common Sense in Illinois - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 1:28 pm:

    I’m just wondering from where the money is coming from? There hasn’t been a capital spending bill for the last three fiscal years, and even if there had been, those bills are project specific. The CBS 2 article says the Governor’s office said they “routinely make investments of this nature.

    So, I have two questions:

    1. What other “routine investments” have been made?

    2. Under what statutory authority is the Governor spending this money?

    3. Oops, sorry but here’s a third. Will JBT approve the warrent and sign the check?

    Bradley, would you give us some answers?


  12. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 1:34 pm:

    State government has been making grants and awards to the non-church parts of religious groups forever; textbook grants to church schools, transportation funds for church schools, construction grants to religious-operated schools, etc.

    Let’s not attack an old practice just because someone doesn’t like a new Govenor. I suspect a number of the naysayers on this comment wouldn’t/don’t mind school vouchers at all.


  13. - ONEMANCANMAKEADIFFERENCE - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 1:53 pm:

    Mr. Steve Schnorf,

    We are not attacking the Gov because we don’t like him. At least I am not. I want him to do the right things when it involves the state and the tax paying citizens.

    There is no justification for giving any money to a church to rebuild it’s school, the auditorium, the cafateria, whatever, IT IS ALL GOING TO THE CHURCH. In this case Pilgrim Church.

    To argue that the Church and State issue is not involved in the Gov’s actions is a void defense and Blagojevich blatantly states in a report by the ABC 7 News,

    “I’m committing $1 million to the rebuilding of the Pilgrim Baptist Church,” said the governor.
    http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=local&id=3796391

    IT SAYS NOTHING ABOUT A SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Accordingly, IT WAS WRONG——————-


  14. - scoot - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 1:55 pm:

    Another headline another day. This is really getting sad…how low is he willing to go to score some political points.


  15. - ron - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 2:08 pm:

    for goodness sake, what can we expect when the spring storms hit. headlines!! “blago pledges state money to fix old barn.” “historic fence damaged by wind. blago to the rescue.” “tree damaged in storm, blogo promises to plat trees throughtout the state.” this guy will stop at nothing.


  16. - ONEMANCANMAKEADIFFERENCE - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 2:11 pm:

    So, simply because for many years Governors have been placing their proper names on literature, pamplets, bumper stickers, etc. justifies Governor Blagojevich who promised to “reform, root up, shape up, change business as usual, rock the system” doing it simply because others did.

    He promised he would change all of this and it remains the same today. In fact, I see the same from him that I saw from George Ryan during his tenure as Governor.

    Simply because Governors in the past have done this (violated the law) doesn’t justify Rod Blagojevich doing the same.

    The law posted in the article by Zorn states specifically what the law states and their is no way around the laws but to change them if you have the power to do so. Other than that, the laws must be followed as they are, no if and or buts about it.

    The Governors failures to follow and enforce laws, creates an avenue for others to suffer even when he doesn’t see it himself. That is why he should follow the law and as it reads.


  17. - Illinois Builder - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 2:11 pm:

    The funny thing is that he’ll probably win reelection. I hate Blago for the same reason I hate Bush. They’re both incompetent dodos.


  18. - Bluefish - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 2:24 pm:

    Well it is good to know that I am not the only person who found this move by Blago to be upsetting. But don’t forget that this move probably has his approval rating in the southside climbing.


  19. - Levois - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 2:26 pm:

    Perhaps Blago is trying to make nice with the black vote. It is said that the black vote helped him get in the governor’s mansion four years ago.


  20. - Papa Legba - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 2:41 pm:

    Mr. Schnorf.

    Perhaps many of us are saying what we are because of how we feel about the current gov and what he has/hasn’t done.

    1. Hasn’t kept his pledge to clean-up “business as usual”, etc, etc.

    2. Is an incompetent pandering dodo unable to stay away from TV cameras and thinks he has ALL Illinois voters fooled by ALL his good work to date.

    I’m sorry to be rude but most of us can smell crap when we step in it and 2) I quit stopped smoking two days ago.

    Papa


  21. - Jeff - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 3:48 pm:

    Let’s see:

    Funding to build a GLBT center in Chicago…

    Why not help fund the rebuilding of a church!


  22. - Beowulf - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 4:01 pm:

    Rod “The Panderer” Blagojevich manages to take it upon himself to give away Illinois taxpayer’s money. I don’t care if it had been the church that I attend each Sunday that burned down, Blagojevich has no business giving away Illinois taxpayer’s money in this case. The church should have carried insurance. If Rod is the “real” humanitarian that he pretends to be, then he should give this church whatever money that they need from Rod’s huge campaign war chest that is allegedly in excess of $14 million dollars. He has the ability and discretion to give this campaign money to whomever and whatever he chooses. Let him be magnanamous with his own money! This guy is as phony as a three dollar bill. Blago reminds me of that guy Scushy or whatever his name was down in Alabama. He looted the corporation that he was CEO of (to the detriment of the shareholders) but he gave large charitable donations to the local African-American churches and charities down in this area. When the jury was chosen, it was comprised of the same African-Americans that he had contributed to their churches and charities prior to getting his hand caught in the cookie jar by the Feds. It was preordained that he was to be found innocent. These charitable contributions that he made on behalf of his company turned out to be analgous to his personal “insurance premiums”. He made them to help insure that when the day came that the law finally caught up with him, he would still remain a free man. Blagojevich is a similar work of art. It amazes me that Mike and Lisa Madigan are backing Blagojevich rather than Eisendrath or some other decent Democrat candidate.


  23. - Pat Hickey - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 4:34 pm:

    I doubt that this move by the Governor will give Cardinal George ‘dark’ thoughts, like loosening a few links on the sensor chain, but it will also do Blago no good at the polls in March. The State goes shy a cool mil the good folks at Pilgrim will only have walking-around money as far as restoring the Church/school/administration building. Its Bad Spending - that’s all,


  24. - Ex Churchman - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 5:17 pm:

    I noticed that there was another headline about a Frank Llyod Wright house burning down. Is hair do going to give tax payer money to rebuild that building?


  25. - IDOT PRO - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 6:08 pm:

    The unfortunate church fire and immediate State of Illinois financial help should help GROD calm down DBE issues associated with the huge pending Dan Ryan reconstruction season opening in March, through part of the Bronzeville neighborhhod.


  26. - Ethel - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 7:13 pm:

    $1MM to a church - but nothing for the capital bond projects frozen when this administration entered office. All the leaking roofs, failed boilers and water heaters, doors and locks that don’t work on correctional facilities, mental health facilities and DNR locations are waiting - and have been for a number of years. They will continue to wait - since there are no votes there, no grand announcemetns to be made. Only responsible government.


  27. - Anon - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 7:19 pm:

    I feel the pain for a historic church. But, when funding levels are what they are for public schools and capital spending for public schools is extremely tight, I find it unconscienable that public money is being pledged to a private entity. Many public schools in the metropolitan Chicago area as well as downstate are in appalling condition. Money for textbooks and necessary supplies is unavailable. No public money should be spent for private institutions when we cannot properly fund the public (no other funds available) institutions.


  28. - Wishful - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 7:27 pm:

    The church hired an unlicensed contractor. That would nullify their right to make a claim on any insurance. They screwed up. So why are WE suppose to bail them out?

    Why wasn’t it required that this be voted upon by the General Assembly?


  29. - LittleEgypt - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 8:34 pm:

    Bloggo’s offer of a $1,000 personal donation is laughable. Given in the past couple of years his income tax return shows minimal contributions to ANY non-profit organization (church or otherwise), he MIGHT get my vote if and only ifF he were to personally pay to rebuild the entire church. Now that’s testicular whatever. Awe, I’m just kidding. Nothing he can do will buy my vote. What I want to know is why isn’t there an organization out there who will take Bloggo to court for his relentless pandering to voters via signs and inserts in our income tax booklets. It is clearly against the law. That’s why you don’t see JBT doing any Bright Start ads and no longer see SOS doing any organ donor ads. IT’S AGAINST THE LAW!!!!


  30. - zatoichi - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 10:36 pm:

    Thank goodness those Illinois First projects were frozen three years ago and have been kept frozen. It makes far more sense to give money to a church in Chicago on the spur of the moment than release money for firehouses, community centers, disabled programs, and schools that have people waiting for them. Then again these are only small projects (often under $100,000) that only really get local news headlines in small towns. Not a big enough voting block to worry about. Not as splashy as a $1M project in the big city that gets headlines across the state.


  31. - Paul Powell - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 11:30 pm:

    Hey, don’t forget us down here, I know of 3 historic churches that have burned in the last year but have not heard of them getting a penny in state help to rebuild. Whats up with that?


  32. - Anon. - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 11:46 pm:

    Although I can understand Blago giving money to a historically significant building, he claims that the government money is going to a school and administration building that was next to the church. Since the school/administration building was not the historically significant part, doesn’t that mean he’s just giving away tax dollars to his friends WITHOUT ANY AUTHORITY TO DO SO?

    Watch him suddenly realize that they need General Assembly approval, and this becomes one the reasons we need a capital bill. They’ll try to make it seem like not supporting a capital bill means your a racist.


  33. - Teddy - Tuesday, Jan 10, 06 @ 11:53 pm:

    It is NOT Rod Blagopinocchio’s money but the taxpayers money.


  34. - Always nicer to spend someone else's money - Wednesday, Jan 11, 06 @ 1:52 am:

    Sounds suspiciously like the give away of expired vaccine to Pakistan. Since the state didn’t pay for the vaccine, it certainly was not his to give away for the splashy headlines. No doubt, his gesture has now put the taxpayers on the hook for the expired and unapproved vacinnes to the tune of several million dollars. I wish he would be more generous with his campaign war chest, than the public’s money, when he wants to engage in such obvious political pandering.


  35. - Beowulf - Wednesday, Jan 11, 06 @ 9:44 am:

    This latest Blago giveaway shows us how desperate that this guy is. Blagojevich apparently is really worried about Eisendrath gaining on him lately in the polls.
    If I was an African-American, I would be highly insulted by Blago’s pandering to my race in this thinly veiled attempt to gain our support in the Primary. It’s as if Blago were implying that he could “buy” their vote for the cost of a shot & a beer. It is totally demeaning to the intelligence of the African-American community in our state. Rod Blagojevich is “ricochetting off of the walls” here lately he is so worried about his dismal showing in his polling numbers among the people of Illinois. Get a grip on yourself, Rod!!!


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