A federal judge has once again denied the city's motion to sell the Family Dollar property to St. Joseph's High School. This time the selling price was $345,000.
In a 13-page ruling released Wednesday afternoon, the judge said the city's request to sell the property for less than its purchase price of $1.2 million violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“We’re obviously disappointed but we really have to take a look at the ruling to determine what our next step is," said city attorney Chuck Leone.
You might remember the city first tried selling that land to St. Joseph's High School earlier this year for $1 but the judge also ruled that sale unconstitutional. The city then took the average of two appraisals and came up with its latest asking price of $345,000
Those who have fought the sale from the beginning say it violates the separation of church and state. The deal was challenged in court by four taxpayers represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Indiana ACLU.
“The judge clearly saw that the city was attempting an end run around the court’s earlier decision," said Ayesha N. Khan, Americans United legal director in a news release. "The decision makes clear that the city cannot give preferential treatment to St. Joseph’s over other potential bidders.
“This is an important victory for the taxpayers of South Bend. Public funds should never be spent to support churches or church schools. I hope this makes the council realize that it’s time to respect the separation of church and state.”
Stay with us as we continue to follow this developing story.