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D.C. backs away from special water rate relief for churches

Dec 13, 2018

By Peter Jamison

D.C. officials have backed away from a proposal that would have made it easier for churches to qualify for a break on their water rates than other nonprofits, after critics said the policy could have been unconstitutional.

The city is instead moving forward with a plan that would allow religious and secular nonprofits to qualify for the same discount on water rates. Opponents of the earlier measure said they were satisfied with the new approach.

“This is a great resolution,” said D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), who wrote a letter to the D.C. Water board saying the previous policy may have violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which limits government action that unduly favors religion.

The policy was changed to avoid any delays in the relief program that could result from legal challenges, said Matt Johnson, an environmental protection specialist who worked on the proposals at the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment.

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