A Washington, D.C.-based organization is making an issue of Montgomery County's recent decision to give a $750 tourism grant to the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs.
We appreciate the concern expressed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, but we see no conflict with the contribution.
The county approved the grant in February. The shrine is expecting an increase in visitors this year in light of the pope's decision to make Kateri Tekakwitha a saint. The canonization of Tekakwitha - who was born in 1656 near the site of what is now the shrine - will take place in October.
The shrine will spend the county grant on tourism promotion, which will benefit the county's economy. Visitors will stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants.
The Washington group claims the county is violating the separation between church and state. We disagree, but the group does raise an issue worth bringing up.
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors would have been wiser to talk about the potential church-state conflict before approving the funding. Had a county official questioned the grant, supporters could have presented the tourism argument.
All municipalities should be aware of the legal concept of separation of church and state and its relevance in the Constitution.
In the Montgomery County case, we contend officials did nothing wrong. While the money will go to a religious group, the entire county will benefit from the tourism.