Carson City, Nevada is under fire today from a watchdog group thanks to repeated financial contributions to the First Presbyterian Church, a historic Carson City house of worship whose construction was funded in part by a young Sam Clemens in 1864, according to a story run by the Associated Press.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has called Carson City on the carpet for the money it has contributed for the maintenance of the 145-year-old church and its more modern, adjacent counterpart. Should the payments continue, the group has threatened to sue.
The city paid $78,800 to the church for sidewalks, landscaping and roof repairs last February. In 2006, the city gave $67,700 to help with design costs for the new church. City officials claim the money is not intended to defy church/state separation, but rather is being given for the preservation of a Nevada landmark.
While working as a newspaper man in the territory in his 20s, Clemens supported the construction of the church by raising approximately $200 (about $2,2oo in today's money) charging admission to his roast of Nevada's elected officials in January 1864.