Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 17, 1996 nn nn AA
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 17, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
# 69 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/17/96
~~ A SPECIAL AANEWS BULLETIN! ~~ 4:45 E.T.
CLINTON, LEGISLATORS MOVING TO GIVE DIRECT AID TO
CHURCHES IN ARSON INVESTIGATION
AANEWS has learned that at both the White House and Capitol Hill, plans
are now being made to provide direct government (taxpayer) money to rebuild
churches which may have been destroyed in a recent wave of alleged arsons..
This afternoon, the office of Senator Edward Kennedy is frantically trying
to craft a proposal which, according to sources, would give money outright to
the churches thought to be victims of racial or religiously-motivated arson.
One plan being investigated involves the use of a special "victims
compensation fund" where the churches would not be considered religious
organizations, but instead "victims" of "hate crimes." Reportedly, Kennedy's
office was given the task of writing this legislation by President Clinton.
Clinton has already proposed a special $10,000,000 loan-guarantee fund to
help re-build burned churches. The current USA TODAY notes: "To satisy
concerns about the separation of church and state, the money might be made
available to other community institutions damaged by arson or terrorism."
Other efforts involve directing the money through intermediary community
We expect to hear more about these dubious proposals as the week goes on;
Clinton is holding a meeting of governors, religious leaders and Attorneys
General from states which have ostensibly had arson attacks on churches.
Serious Constitutional Concerns
The First Amendment to the Constitution enjoins government from
establishing a religion. Courts have interpreted this Establishment Clause
in a number of cases, most importantly the Lemon v. Kurtzman decision and the
so-called "three-prong test." Government may engage in no activity which
does not have a primarilly secular purpose, may not promote one religion or
set of religious beliefs over others, and must avoid "excessive entanglement"
between state and church. Mr. Clinton's loan guarantee, or possibly bolder
direct-aid schemes by Sen. Kennedy, clearly promote religion and religious
organizations. Indeed, the impetus for these schemes comes out of
developments which involve religious belief -- a fact supported by the
President's constant references to the primacy of religious worship in
American life (and a statement which ignores the 10% of Americans who are
Atheists, non-believers, agnostics, religious skeptics, or profess no
Indeed, Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition has proclaimed that the
alleged church arsons demonstrate that "Religion is under attack."
It may be noted that while church arson is an extreme case and thus tempts
government involvement in the form of aid, there are other important issues
concerning the relationship between state and church in America. They
concern school vouchers, grants to religious educational institutions and
hospitals, school prayer and other religious ritual in public schools, and
other crucial state-church separation questions. Any "emergency aid" to
religious groups, even under the ruse of "victim compensation," can only
serve to establish a dangerous legal precedent in considering these other
more prosaic cases of possible First Amendment violation.
About This List...
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