Activist Rob Sherman is suing Illinois’ Governor Rod Blagojevich (among others) because he authorized a $1,000,000 grant to rebuild Chicago’s Pilgrim Baptist Church — a church destroyed by fire over two years ago.
Sherman is arguing this is a clear violation of separation of church and state, though the government says they are simply helping fund the rebuilding of the secular portions of the church — like an office and daycare center. Sherman says there’s no way to really distinguish these things from the religious purposes.
In his lawsuit (PDF), he wants to block the state from giving out the funding.
Pending a trial on the merits, a temporary restraining order and/or a preliminary injunction enjoining Defendant Blagojevich from issuing any further instructions or taking any other action to further the release of funds authorized by the Grant and Grant Agreement to the Church, or, if already disbursed, enjoining Defendant to order the rescission and disgorgement of any such funds already released to the Church.
The Chicago Tribune‘s Eric Zorn is now referring to the activist as Sherman 2.0 — a new Sherman, if you will.
The difference between the two Rob Shermans?
Money, he says. Lots and lots of money.
Sherman, 55, of Buffalo Grove, has been a recurring character on the local scene for nearly a quarter of a century—the atheist crusader who commences agitating whenever he detects government showing favoritism to religion.
His was a shoestring operation, and a frayed shoestring at that: He worked a succession of odd jobs, including appliance salesman, self-employed travel agent, typist and delivery truck driver. For steady income, he says, he relied mostly on his wife, an accounting clerk. For emergency subsidies he relied on his wealthy parents. And for occasional legal help he relied on the kindness of volunteer lawyers.
… the Old Rob Sherman was surprisingly effective in persuading government officials to stop, as they should, using public resources to promote religion.
“Sometimes it just took one phone call,” Sherman said. “But now [my threats to take legal action] aren’t just a bluff. I can back them up.”
Why? Because last year, Sherman said, he inherited from his mother a sum that he characterizes as “a multimillion-dollar amount . . . more money than I can ever spend.”
With those resources, he said, he’ll be paying lawyers instead of begging them for help. The first major manifestation of Rob Sherman 2.0 was the federal suit, still ongoing, that he and a team of hired-gun lawyers filed last fall against the new state mandate requiring public school teachers to begin each classroom day with a moment of silence “for silent prayer or for silent reflection.”
Of course, we have to remember this is Rob Sherman. Every success he has seems to come intertwined with some sort of faux pas. With every victory comes a statement that would have been better left unsaid.
When State Rep. Monique Davis said to him in the Illinois General Assembly that “it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy [atheism] exists” — making him appear as a victim for once — he responded as such:
Now that Negroes like Representative Monique Davis have political power, it seems that they have no problem at all with discrimination, just as long as it isn’t them who are being discriminated against.
Yep. He said that.
Anyway, you have to wonder: how will he balance out this excellent lawsuit with something that will make us shake our heads, sigh, and second guess his sanity?
He took his money and bought this:
To symbolize this new determination as well as his new wealth, he bought a single-engine sport airplane for $113,000 last week, he said. And as soon as he learns to fly, he plans to use it to commute to wherever he detects breaches in the wall that separates church from state.
“The signal is that I now have nearly infinite resources to put the fear of God into public officials,” said Rob Sherman 2.0. He paused to see if I would acknowledge the well-wrought, irony-rich, attention-getting quote he no longer needs to fashion. “Do you like that one?”
I do. In fact, I do.
On a side note, I can’t believe he found a way to top The Shermanator.