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Payment of state money to churches is halted

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge blocked state government payments to two churches in northwest Louisiana, saying they violate the constitutional division between church and state because the budget doesn't say what the money will be used for.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance sided with the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit in August to stop the payments, which aren't tied to certain programs but to the churches themselves.

"This government favoritism toward certain churches, together with the lack of a specific secular purpose for the funds, violates constitutional requirements that such government aid be for a secular purpose and not foster excessive government entanglement with religion," Vance wrote in her Oct. 5 ruling.

Vance issued a preliminary injunction barring the money from moving from the state treasury to Stonewall Baptist Church in Bossier City and Shreveport Christian Church until a trial is held.