Plaintiffs withdraw suit against federal funding for church preservation


Anonymous plaintiffs dropped their December 2004 lawsuit, which sought to stop the federal government from funding the preservation of California’s historic Spanish missions.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State represented the anonymous plaintiffs. It said the suit, filed to block $10 million authorized by Congress to restore and preserve the historic California missions, was withdrawn because Congress had failed to budget any funds under the California Missions Preservation Act.

The case was withdrawn Jan. 17 but it had been scheduled to appear before a judge today.

The plaintiffs had argued that since some of the historic Spanish missions still conduct church services, none of the missions—among them the oldest buildings in California—should be preserved using federal government funds.

However, the missions are the most frequented historic landmarks in California, and every fourth grade student in California visits the missions as part of the state's public school history curriculum.

Recognizing the missions’ historical significance, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer sponsored the 2004 California Missions Preservation Act. The Act received bi-partisan support and authorizes historic preservation grants to be distributed to the California Missions Foundation, a private, non-sectarian charitable organization established to preserve the missions.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a motion last April to dismiss the lawsuit.
It intends to defend the Act's constitutionality if the plaintiffs ever decide to file a new lawsuit after funds are appropriated.

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