APin 07/20 0218 Catholic School Grants FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - A Washington-based group sa

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APin 07/20 0218 Catholic School Grants FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) -- A Washington-based group says if the Fort Wayne City Council approves a plan to spend $35,500 on video equipment for two Catholic schools, the council will be violating the U.S. Constitution. Americans United for Separation of Church and State claims the grants -- of $24,000 to Most Precious Blood Catholic School and $11,500 to St. Francis College -- are unconstitutional. Both schools would use the money to buy video equipment to produce local educational shows for cable television. "The U.S. Supreme Court and a host of lower federal and state courts have ruled that the First Amendment prohibits government at all levels from any direct aid to religious schools," wrote Robert L. Maddox, executive director of Americans United. Maddox wrote the letter to Mayor Win Moses Jr. and mailed copies to City Council members. Both schools would allow other students to use the equipment. But Joseph Conn, spokesman for the group, predicted religious minorities would feel intimidated. "Would they want the Moonies and the Hare Krishnas and the Scientologists to use the facilities?" Conn said. Mayoral spokesman Kevin M. Purdy said the grants will benefit all city residents, not just Catholic students. "Those funds are not intended to promote or further a religion or a religious cause," he said. "Those funds are for the benefit of the community." Purdy said he knew of no local complaints about the grants. Sister Jean Perry, principal of Most Precious Blood, declined to comment. Americans United will consider suing if the council approves the grants, Maddox wrote. The money is part of a package of grants the city makes each year to agencies that want to improve local public TV facilities. Comcast Cable Communications, owner of Fort Wayne's cable system, each year pays 5 percent of its total revenue to the city. The city earmarks 40 percent of the money for the grants. Last page !

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