(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)