Shelby County awards $15,000 grant for Bible Museum in Collierville

Separation of church and state: That was an issue raised in regards to the Bible Museum on the Square in Collierville.

Monday, the Shelby County Commission passed a resolution to grant $15,000 to the Bible Museum.

The funding is through the Community Enhancement Program, but some claim using taxpayer dollars to fund a place with religious undertones is unconstitutional.

Craig Gyergyo, the executive director of the Bible Museum, disagrees. “This is America. And of course, people are entitled to their opinion. We don’t happen to agree with their opinion,”

Gyergyo said, “We are a small nonprofit organization. We’re an educational institution. We’re promoting the history of the bible and a grant like that is really a game-changer for us.”

Not everyone agrees. The Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a formal letter to Shelby County Chairman Mark Billingsley.

The 2-page letter reads, in part, “Given bible Museum on the Square’s organizational mission and its proposed uses of the grant money, namely ‘exhibit fabrication, educational programming, marketing, and staffing,’ giving a CEP grant to Bible on the Square will funnel Shelby County money directly into its evangelical mission.”

For the full letter, CLICK HERE

“We are proud of who we are. We stand by who we are. We’re certainly a faith-based organization. We have bible in our name, we’re not hiding from that,” Gyergyo said.

FOX13 found the community seemed evenly divided on the question. Cornelius Woods, a Shelby County taxpayer, was in favor.

“People need to read the bible and people need to be in church and people need to go to church. A lot of people don’t go these days, but need to,” Woods said.

“So you think it’s a good thing that taxpayer dollars will help fund this?” Investigative Reporter Leah Jordan asked. “Yes,” Woods said.

However, local resident Stephen Dowdy disagreed.

“There should be a separation between church and state. Some people, not me, but some people, might be offended by that and don’t want their taxpayer monies going there,” Dowdy said. “So I actually do believe there should be a separation.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation requested that the Shelby County Board of Commissioners not grant the request for money on September 19. Monday, they did.

FOX13 has asked what further action, if any, the Freedom From Religion Foundation may take.

We also reached out to two commissioners but has not yet heard back.

“I think the commissioners have their finger on the pulse of Shelby County, and the people they’re serving, their constituents,” Gyergyo said. “And I think they probably look at it and say, ‘this is consistent with the values of our community overall.’”