A group that advocates separation of church and state is protesting a Nevada city’s decision to provide funding to a church that Mark Twain helped build as a fledgling writer in the 1860s.
City and church officials disagree, saying the money is merely going toward additional costs stemming from an agreement that paved the way for the congregation to construct a new church in return for backing off its plan to raze the original one.
Last month, supervisors voted to give $78,800 to the church for sidewalks, landscaping and roof repairs. In 2006, the city gave $67,700 to help with design costs for the new church, which is adjacent to the old one.
At the request of two church trustees, Twain raised $200 — worth about $2,200 today — to help complete construction of the church by charging admission to his January 1864 “roast” of Nevada lawmakers in Carson City, the state capital.
At the time, Twain was a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise in nearby Virginia City. His brother, Orion Clemens, was a church member and secretary of the Nevada Territory.