For Release: June 6, 2003
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106
or Christopher Burger at (202) 507-6398
Civil Rights Landmarks May Be Next to Be Helped By Increased
White House Willingness to Help Faith-Based Institutions
A recent change in federal policy to allow government funds to assist in the restoration of historic churches is applauded by members of the Project 21 African-American leadership network. Project 21 members note that the government's new willingness to work with churches, synagogues, mosques and other faith-based institutions that began with the Bush Administration could help restore many key historic sites affiliated with the civil rights movement.
Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton announced in May that the "Save America's Treasures" program would provide assistance to renovate and clean the windows of the Old North Church in Boston, Massachusetts - the building Paul Revere used to warn colonists of the arrival of British troops in 1775. The White House has indicated that a future recipient of similar aid may be the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama where a Ku Klux Klan bombing killed four black girls in 1963.
"There are numerous dilapidated church buildings that were once stops on the Underground Railroad, and America deserves to see them preserved in the same way we care for other historic buildings," said Project 21 member Council Nedd. "It is about time that historic churches were granted the same federal privileges as other structures that have played significant roles in the formation of this country."
Federal funds to renovate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia were not made available until the church's congregation relocated to a new building. In 1995, the Clinton-era Justice Department also issued an opinion that kept active houses of worship from competing for historic preservation grants. The Bush Administration has revered this trend, and hopes to further enhance the ability of faith-based institutions to compete for available federal grants in other areas like providing educational and drug prevention assistance in the communities they serve.
"As evidenced by references to God in the Declaration of Independence, it is clear that the Founding Fathers were devout religious men," noted Nedd. "It is about time the government recognized that contribution as one of the underpinnings of our nation."
Project 21 has been a leading voice in the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact Chris Burger or David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 or Project21@nationalcenter.org, or visit Project 21's web site at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html. National Policy Analysys #298, "Bio-Foods Can Improve Nutrition in America, Cut Starvation and Disease in Africa," by Project 21 member John Meredith on the issue of genetically modified foods is available at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA298.html.
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