District Judge Blocks City’s Land Transfer to Catholic High School

The Associated Press reported last week that U.S. District Judge Robert Miller held that the city of South Bend could not transfer real property to a Catholic high school.  The city was supposed to transfer the property to the new St. Joseph’s High School, scheduled to open in the fall of 2012, to be used as a football stadium. In exchange for the transfer, the high school was to make the stadium available for use by city schools and organizations for 10 years. Opposition to the transfer came from four city taxpayers who argued the transfer violated the Establishment Clause. Specifically, the taxpayers argued that the transfer of the $1.2 million property constituted direct and substantial aid to a religious institution. The judge agreed and concluded that a reasonable observer would think “the city is endorsing St. Joseph’s High School, the local Catholic community, or the Diocese that operates the school.” The South Bend Tribune reported that no decision has been made regarding what the city’s next step will be and whether there will be an appeal of the court’s decision. For now, construction on the high school will continue as scheduled. –YAH

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