County rescinds donation to CBA

Published 10:46 pm Thursday, November 6, 2014


The Covington County Commission on Thursday unanimously rescinded a $3,000 donation it made in October to the Covington Baptist Association for the Stanley School Men’s Ministry.

Commissioner Harold Elmore, who originally asked for the contribution, made the motion to rescind, and Commissioner Carl Turman seconded. There was no discussion.

Commission Chairman Bill Godwin said Thursday afternoon that the Covington Baptist Association returned the county’s check before Thursday’s vote, and the check has been voided.

The donation drew the attention of a The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog group. FFRF legal fellow Katherine Paige wrote the commission, charging that the grant was unconstitutional

“The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits any ‘sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the sovereign in religious activities,’ ” Paige wrote. “Funding a Baptist ministry violates this principle of neutrality, especially when the program is explicitly Christian and clearly meant to influence people to convert to Christianity.”

In the Oct. 8 meeting, Elmore specifically requested the donation for the “Stanley School Men’s Ministry,” and said the church (Judson Baptist) owns the building that was once the Stanley School. Commissioners eventually agreed that the contribution would be made to the Covington Baptist Association and earmarked for the ministry.

Supporters of the ministry have cried foul, stating that the funds were being used on the building, and that the building does not belong to the church.

However, county property records show that the old school is deeded to Judson Baptist Church.

According to probate records, Judson Baptist Church incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 2002, and Elmore was one of the organization’s four trustees.

A 2012 “statement of authority” regarding Judson Baptist Church as an “incorporated religious association” listed Elmore as one of three individuals authorized to act on its behalf.

In other business, the commission:

• Agreed to pay C&H Contracting, a subcontractor for the jail project, $3,600 for 300 yards of dirt delivered to the site that was not in the original specs. The contractor refused to pay for the dirt because he said commissioners directly ordered the additional amount.

• Agreed to put Karen Sowell, who recently was selected to become the county administrator in January, in an interim accounting role at her current rate of pay for a transition period beginning Nov. 17.

• Announced an opening on the DHR board.

• Announced an opening for an alternate on the South Central Alabama Regional Planning Commission board.

• Authorized the county engineer to accept the low bid for lime rock.