(RNS1-mar17) The Kansas City Atheist Coalition held signs, fielded questions and handed out science-related toys to passing children in Kansas City, Mo., on March 17, 2013, during St. Patrick's Day celebrations. The event, which they called "Ask an Atheist," was organized as a response to the Kansas City St. Patrick's Day parade organizers' denial for KCAC to participate in this year's parade. For use with RNS-ATHEIST-STPATS, transmitted on March 17, 2013, RNS photo by Sally Morrow.

Atheist group sues Kansas City, Mo., over Baptist convention

July 26, 2016

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(Reuters)  An atheist group has sued Kansas City, Mo., charging that plans to use $65,000 in tourism tax dollars to assist in an upcoming Baptist convention violates the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of religion.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday (July 22) in U.S. District Court by American Atheists against officials including Kansas City Mayor Sly James, asks a federal judge to block the city from spending taxpayer dollars to support the event.

It contends that using tax dollars to help Modest Miles Ministries Inc, prepare for the National Baptist Convention USA, would advance a religious purpose in violation of the "establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

In April, the city approved a payment of $65,000 in municipal funds from the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund to the ministry to help transportation costs, the lawsuit said. The convention is scheduled for Sept. 5-9 in Kansas City.

Kansas City spokesman Chris Hernandez declined to comment on the pending lawsuit. But a contact has not been signed for the funds to be released, and standard contract language excludes religious use of any funding, Hernandez said.

About 10,000 people are expected to attend the convention, which was previously held in the city in 2010, 2003 and 1998, the Kansas City Star reported.

(Reporting by Justin Madden)


  1. Check this out baby. During these tough economic times, 10,000 black tourists from all over America suddenly decide to visit YOUR third-rate city, dropping CASH MONEY all over your town. Restaurants, hotels, shopping, economic dollars galore.

    And all you had to do, (since other cities wanted to steal the black tourists from you), was simply sweeten the deal by proposing a smidgen of your city’s tax money for your transportation systems, so that the old church mothers, the disabled, and the babies don’t have to walk 15 blocks to the convo site.

    In exchange, your city wins the black jackpot — TONS of free ca$$$$h from the National Baptist Convention USA. Schools, infrastructure, police, your city budget gets fresh cash. You’re not subsidizing their church meetings at all; you’re just fixing up your own city transportation for a week.

    But nooope. The white atheists DON’T want your city to score Fresh Moolah during difficult economic times. The white atheists WANT your public schools to have money shortfalls, they WANT your schoolchildren to go lacking. They WANT the pot-holes to stay pot-holed. They WANT your police to lack the extra money for new initiatives. THANKS, ATHEISTS !!!

  2. Cities can’t violate the constitution even if it’s profitable — especially if it’s profitable.

  3. Check this out, if you break the Constitution, the guiding law of America, just a little bit, you can get WEALTHY! Your city can make money hand over fist!

    All you have to do is deny the guiding principles of your country and break the law!


  4. So, please show us SPECIFICALLY how the KCMO government has “broken the constitution” or even broken any laws at all. You won’t be able to.

  5. Government funding of a religious group for the purposes of furthering sectarian goals violates the Establishment clause of the first amendment.

  6. This is why I asked for specifics. Since YOU cannot provide specifics, I will.

    “City Spokesman Chris Hernandez claims that Modest Miles Ministries (the people that assist with the transportation stuff) is a nonprofit arm of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City that does secular work in the community. The nonprofit is registered with the Missouri secretary of state’s office as a social service organization.” — Associated Press, 07/26/16

    (Hernandez also said) “contract language would show that the money would be used for secular purposes. He pointed out no contract has been signed yet.” ‘

    “Rev. John Modest Miles, a senior pastor at the church, said the National Baptist Convention has previously held its event in the city, and that he was shocked to hear about the lawsuit. Miles said city tourism funds had been appropriated for the convention in the past, and are used for transporting convention delegates and other visitors.” = AP

  7. So now you see why the specifics are important, Spuddie. Your atheist friends in KCMO clearly did NOT research the city’s convention and tourism history before running off to sue. The city has a clear Non-Sectarian Goal of TOURISM by which they raise money for their own economy, schools, police, etc, using properly registered organizations.

    Now your atheist pals are in PR trouble. Now you’ve got every black person in KCMO asking “have these atheists lost their godless minds or something.”

    Look for all the Kansas City atheists of color, to keep a very LOW profile for the next 2 or 3 weeks, out of sheer embarrassment at the Public-Relations mess that KCMO’s white atheists have created.

  8. The convention serves no secular or rational interest of the city. It is a purely sectarian religious event. It costed the establishment clause. There is no legal excuse that they did so in the past. Improper use is improper use.

    You cannot use government funds for the furtherance of sectarian rigorous purposes. If the city did this for all conventions regardless of religious or non religious purposes, then you would have a point to make. Otherwise this looks like a sectarian appropriation. Government showing favoritism on a given faith and sect.

  9. Yes, the atheists are right. I like Kansas City. It’s a nice town and the Royals are great, but, they can’t give money to a religious gathering. Too bad, but the law is the law.

  10. Who says the city isn’t willing to do the same for ALL of its large conventions (of 10,000 attendees or more). You don’t get to just assume out of thin air, that the city is failing in this area.
    You didn’t have specifics the last time I asked; do you have any specifics now?

  11. They would have said so in response. It would be far more in their favor if such a policy existed. They would not have used the excuses you stated. So it doesn’t appear to be the case that such a policy exists.

  12. It doesn’t violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Not sure about the state of Missouri

  13. How is it violating the Constitution? Hope many of you feel the same way when the Feds re-distribute tax-payor$$ to others or to businesses. Welfare is not Constitutional !!

  14. You mean when the Federal Govt. gives $$ to Christian Re-settlement agencies it violates the Constitution ???

  15. How is it violating the Constitution?

    Violating the establishment clause by funding a religious organization.

    Hope many of you feel the same way when the Feds re-distribute tax-payor$$ to others or to businesses. Welfare is not Constitutional !!

    How is it violating the Constitution?

  16. You mean when the Federal Govt. gives $$ to Christian Re-settlement agencies it violates the Constitution ???

    No, all such agencies have to accept all people, not just Christians (and they can’t enforce their religious tenets, which is why the ACLU is suing over organizations that don’t allow refugees access to contraception and abortion).

    A Baptist convention is a religious gathering, and financing it violates the “no establishment” clause.

  17. Strange, my constitutional law professors noted that “promote the general welfare” was certainly one of the requirements of our newly established nation delineated in our Constitution. And that ensuring that general welfare was most definitely CONSTITUTIONAL.

  18. No race baiting, sir. But some of us actually have a small knowledge of both KCMO (and its convention / tourism efforts ) and the good people of the large NBC-USA denomination.

    The white atheists of KCMO (and this is THEIR chosen move, go back and look at their picket signs), have now proven their apparent ignorance of both of the above parties. This does not look good for them.

    If they have any intentions at all of building bridges with the black community in that city, they need to deal much differently.

  19. No race baiting, sir.

    Yes, you are.

    The white atheists

    There you go again.

  20. Does the city do this sort of thing for other groups that hold conventions there? If so, then there’s no violation — an “establishment of religion” involves giving special privileges to particular churches, not treating them like everyone else.

  21. Please tell us SPECIFICALLY how this money is NOT being used to promote one religion over another. You won’t be able to.

    Although I do expect you to show us how well you tap dance in your ignorance.

  22. While your economic analysis is pretty good, it’s unclear whether this group knows that the National Baptist Convention USA is an African American group. A lot of people hear Baptist and think of Jerry Falwell. But maybe not knowing about the NBC-USA is a form of white privilege.

  23. The old but still valid test for alleged Establishment Clause violations is: (a) does the funding have a secular purpose? (b) is the primary effect of the funding to inhibit or advance the religion (c) no excessive government entanglement with religious affairs. The atheist group is going to have a tough time in this litigation if the money is basically standard tourism support.

  24. Look folks, we are already subsidizing these religious organizations by keeping them tax-exempt. They’re getting more than plenty already. So when these same organizations want to take additional tax dollars to fund their events, don’t be surprised when people take exception to it

  25. Doubtful. And why make it about race. Oh that’s right, you’re clearly a race baiter. When you don’t have facts I guess. What PR trouble do you speak of. I need specifics.

  26. The first amendment or equal protection clause could be used based on any judge’s wimp to stop or require any number of actions by local government based on free speech. If Kansas City routinely subsidizes other conventions such as the Masons, Shriners, advocacy groups and then denies another group, the city could be also in violation of the first amendment based on speech. Today’s convoluted interpretation of the first amendment has very little to do with the original intent to prevent Congress from adopting one specific creed or denomination such as was done in several countries all over Europe at the time. Kansas City has made a mere business arrangement to prime the local economic pump.

  27. I was wondering how far down I’d have to read before someone played the race card.

  28. Yes, but you misinterpret the meaning. “General welfare (small w) means general well-being. Which means the gov’t is supposed to do what it can to make the lives of the governed as easy as possible. In other words: “Muh roads”…

    Welfare (capital W) is a different matter entirely.

  29. Southern Democrats were enraged to hear of President Lincoln’s proclamation freeing the slaves in slave States. They said they had slaves in the past and they were shocked to hear of this legal action against them. The slaves were used as a form of cheap labor.

  30. Your degree in Constitutional Law was earned when & where?

    SCOTUS disagrees with your ‘interpretation” of what our Constitution means.

    So I would suggest you NOT give up your day job [if you actually work] anytime soon.

  31. I don’t need a degree to understand the meaning of simple words, and it’s not my fault you don’t.

    I’d instruct you to google the definition of welfare, but we both know you wouldn’t, so…farewell.

  32. Thanks for confirming that you know nothing factual about our Constitution and only have unsubstantiated opinions about what it may or may not actually mean. Thanks for confirming that you are so ignorant that you would presume to know more that every member of SCOTUS for more than 2 centuries. Thanks for confirming that you would destroy that document & our system of laws but have nothing to replace either with except that ‘unsubstantiated opinion” of yours.

    Not interested in your “opinion” rabbit holes, froggy – just facts and you have only that unsubstantiated opinion to present.

    And I will stand behind our Constitution and the system of laws it represents.

  33. According to every judicial ruling on the 1st amendment, it does violate it. If it goes to court, the state doesn’t stand a chance.

  34. From Goldberg v. Kelly (1970):

    Welfare, by meeting the basic demands of subsistence, can help bring within the reach of the poor the same opportunities that are available to others to participate meaningfully in the life of the community. At the same time, welfare guards against the societal malaise that may flow from a widespread sense of unjustified frustration and insecurity. Public assistance, then, is not mere charity, but a means to “promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

  35. Thank you for that. A succinct presentation of the facts, without ad hominem. Without appeal to authority.

    That SCOTUS interprets the Welfare program to be promoting the general welfare is another argument for another day.

  36. Wow….to their own destruction they go. You IDIOTS didn’t do the math. If 10,000 people spend an average of $150 in addition to their hotel stay, that means they will spend $1.5M plus another roughly $750,000 in hotel fees. Assuming a sales tax of 9%, that should translate into $200,000 in INCOMING TAX dollars which directly benefits the city….

    But if God is involved then to hell with it, right? I mean, didn’t you know that money from Christians gives you warts!?!

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