ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – Arlington County’s plan to spend $46 million of taxpayers’ money to demolish a Baptist church and build a new one violates the First Amendment, a taxpayer complains in Federal Court. Peter Glassman says the church itself will contribute nothing to the work on the Baptist church in the Clarendon section of Arlington.
The county claims the church will provide affordable housing units to the area, though the project will yield only 70 affordable housing units, bringing the taxpayers’ tab to an unprecedented $666,000 per unit, Glassman says.
He claims the affordable housing plan is a ruse to hide the fact that Arlington is building a church: the 70 units will sit in the middle of a newly built religious compound with which they will share infrastructure, elevators, a fountain and pipes.
Glassman also objects that residents of the units will be selected by a board largely consisting of church-appointed members, with only one member appointed by Arlington.
“Through this joint development project, Arlington County has become excessively entangled with the Church,” Glassman says.
Glassman lives less than a block away from the site. He is not a Baptist.
He says that as much as 80 percent of the Arlington Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which is shelling out $13.1 million in loans for the church, comes from the Arlington County budget, and that means he and his neighbors are paying for the church to be built.
Glassman sued the Arlington County Board members who approved the loan in October 2004, and sitting Board members who voted to increase the loan in December 2008.
He seeks a declaration that the loan violates the Establishment Cause, and an injunction.
He is represented by Stephen Cochran with Roeder Cochran, of McLean, Va.