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Author Topic: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?  (Read 2753 times)

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Offline vtboy

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #50 on: March 08, 2013, 07:40:29 AM »
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." – First Ammendment

The clause does not say that government will not help religious institutions struck by disaster.  Governmental agencies would simply be giving money to another business applying for government assistance.  Which considering most of said assistance is actually comprised of SBA loans, this becomes even less of an issue.

Are you serious about this?

Religion is not "another business." The Establishment and Free Exercise clauses were added to the Constitution precisely because religion, as history attests, is different from other enterprises. Nor does the absence of a specific proscription in the First Amendment against handing out disaster relief funds to religious institutions suggest that this form of government subsidization of religion is beyond its reach. The framers of the Amendment, recognizing their inability to foresee all possible variants of the mischief they were attempting to avoid, crafted a prohibition of general application. The First Amendment does not, for example, explicitly proscribe prayer and the teaching of intelligent design in public school, religious displays on public property, or government funding of religious activities. Yet, all of these have been held to run afoul of its proscription. As Chief Justice Burger, writing for the majority in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), put it:

"The language of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment is, at best, opaque, particularly when compared with other portions of the Amendment. Its authors did not simply prohibit the establishment of a state church or a state religion, an area history shows they regarded as very important and fraught with great dangers. Instead, they commanded that there should be "no law respecting an establishment of religion." A law may be one "respecting" the forbidden objective while falling short of its total realization. A law "respecting" the proscribed result, that is, the establishment of religion, is not always easily identifiable as one violative of the Clause. A given law might not establish a state religion, but nevertheless be one "respecting" that end in the sense of being a step that could lead to such establishment, and hence offend the First Amendment.
 
"In the absence of precisely stated constitutional prohibitions, we must draw lines with reference to the three main evils against which the Establishment Clause was intended to afford protection: 'sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the sovereign in religious activity.' Walz v. Tax Commission, 397 U. S. 664, 397 U. S. 668 (1970)" (emphasis added).

I can imagine no clearer example of sovereign sponsorship of, and support for, religion than the doling out government funds to rebuild a church, where some sect's dogma will be proclaimed, its members will pray, and its holidays will be celebrated. Further, government funding, which generally comes with regulation and oversight, at the very least raises the specter of active government involvement in religious affairs. 

Finally, before you try to tell me that some churches, in addition to spreading their own peculiar brands of nonsense, provide useful, nonsectarian services to their communities, please read Lemon v. Kurtzman (http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/403/602/case.html). At issue there were Rhode Island and Pennsylvania statues under which public funds were used to support private schools, most of which were religiously affiliated. Notwithstanding explicit statutory provisions designed to limit subsidization to strictly secular educational purposes and to avoid the funding of frankly religious activities (e.g., religion classes), the Supreme Court found the laws fostered an excessive entanglement of government in religion, and struck them down as offensive to the First Amendment.

Let churches buy hazard insurance. They have no claim on secular tax dollars.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 07:45:22 AM by vtboy »

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #51 on: March 08, 2013, 02:12:12 PM »
My first point is to state that during this discussion I have been polite to all participants and have not made use of commentary that ridicules or belittles my opponents’ arguments.  I have made every effort to remain polite and considerate to all parties.  I would ask for the same in return vtboy and warn you that asking if my argument is serious certainly borders on disrespectful.  I do not believe that I have ever given any indication that my arguments are not thought out and reasonable in purpose and at least supported enough to substantiate an actual argument.  If you choose to make this debate something personal or engage in belittling tactics then I will simply call an end to my participation.  I ask only for the same courtesy I have shown and ask only for the respect I am willing to give.

My second point is that the case of Lemon v Kurtzman was not judged based on neutrality or religious intent, but rather entanglement of the government with a religious institution.  Chief Justice Burger notes on several occasions within the brief that the law being considered makes allowances for government oversight and intervention in the disbursement of the funds to the parochial schools.  This oversight is meant to ensure that the funds are appropriated for secular teaching (including teacher salaries, textbooks and materials).  Chief Justice Burger points toward the religious markings, activities and purpose of a parochial school as evidence that such intervention would be required to ensure proper distribution of funds.  That the government would then have to take action to oversee and be witness to private church documents.  Please note the actual reason and law he used to uphold this decision.

“Held: Both statutes are unconstitutional under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, as the cumulative impact of the entire relationship arising under the statutes involves excessive entanglement between government and religion.” Pp. 403 U. S. 611-625.

Chief Justice Burger further go on to elaborate on criterion used in the past by the Supreme Court in regard to public funds used in regard to religious institutions.  This also invalidates your final statement of religious institutions having no access to secular tax dollars. 

“Every analysis in this area must begin with consideration of the cumulative criteria developed by the Court over many years. Three such tests may be gleaned from our cases. First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion, Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U. S. 236, 392 U. S. 243 (1968);
Page 403 U. S. 613
finally, the statute must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion." Walz, supra, at 397 U. S. 674.

The problem with this particular legislation as Chief Justice Burger points out is the final point.

Circuit Court Judge Sutton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit handled a case similar to the one we are currently discussing where city and state funds were used to help rebuild works owned and operated by religious institutions.  As part of a program to reinvigorate the neighborhoods around several new public works, grants were being distributed to property owners and businesses to assist in their rebuilding and maintenance.  Nine of those grants went toward areas owned and operated by religious organizations.

““Everyone agrees that the program allocates benefits to a broad spectrum of entities on a neutral basis, as the City awards grants without regard to the religious, non-religious or a religious nature of the entity. The facial neutrality of the program, everyone also agrees,
does not mask an intent to advance religion: Detroit sought to fix up its downtown, not to
establish a religion. And as will generally be the case when a governmental program
allocates generally available benefits on a neutral basis and without a hidden agenda, this
program does not have the impermissible effect of advancing religion in general or any one
faith in particular. By endorsing all qualifying applicants, the program has endorsed none
of them, and accordingly it has not run afoul of the federal or state religion clauses.”

Circuit Court Judge Sutton also makes a point of noting various other state funded protection and programs offered to religious institutions.

“A comparison to other permitted benefits proves the point. A city may extend sewers
and sidewalks to churches, synagogues and mosques. See Everson, 330 U.S. at 17–18. It
may provide police and fire-protection services to them. See id. And it may extend
property-tax exemptions for charitable organizations to them. See Walz, 397 U.S. at 680.
All of these generally available benefits facilitate the operation of the religious institution,
either by saving them money directly or by sparing them the expense of providing the
services on their own, and in the process they make it more likely that newcomers will attend
their religious services. Yet the Court has long approved the extension of these general
government benefits to religious entities. The same is true of school-bus services, books and
school technology offered to religious schools, even though the assistance facilitates the
religious and secular missions of the recipients. See Everson, 330 U.S. at 17–18; Allen, 392
U.S. at 238, 244–48; Mitchell, 530 U.S. at 809–14 (plurality opinion); id. at 836–37(O’Connor, J., concurring in the judgment). If a city may save the exterior of a church from
a fire, it is hard to understand why it cannot help that same church with peeling paint or tuckpointing—at least when it provides the same benefit to all downtown buildings on the same
terms.”

Please make note that the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel has previously stated ““a FEMA disaster grant is analogous to the sort of aid that qualifies as ‘general government services’ approved by the [Supreme] Court”

This shows that there is certainly legal precedent and instances allowed by the law where tax dollars are used to not only rebuild and repair religious structures, but also to enhance the services offered by religious institutions.

http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/09a0188p-06.pdf

http://www.justice.gov/olc/FEMAAssistance.htm

(Please excuse the poor formatting, I got tired of fighting with the text.)

Offline Vanity Evolved

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #52 on: March 08, 2013, 04:40:14 PM »
Personally, I don't think so; if I were to avoid paying tax, I wouldn't be entitled to recieving aid from the government. I don't see why a church, which already benefits from not paying tax in the first place, should benefit from the money others do. Once religious groups begin paying into the system, they can feel free to claim from the system. I find it hardly fair that other people who have paid their tax will have to share their money to rebuild with one of the few groups today which don't pay tax in the first place. It's a similar issue here in England, where a large portion of taxpayer money is exclusively given to various faith schools, by law, schools which can (and very often do) exclude children based on faith. There's quite a fasinating documentary on the subject I recall watching once upon a time (I think it was by Richard Dawkins?). Heck, my own upper school ended up being funded by a Christian organization, and practically organized mandated prayer - there were mumblings that a lot of students in the school were still only there because it reflected badly to expel those who didn't associate with the faith, but considering they were taking over a previously non-faith school, a lot of students were of varying faiths or lack thereof.

In essence: Just like I don't enjoy people without jobs claiming healthcare which I'm paying in for, I don't enjoy the idea that a group of people who get to keep their tax money can also take -my- tax money to build houses of worship to ideals and morals I find disgusting.

Offline vtboy

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #53 on: March 08, 2013, 05:41:53 PM »
My first point is to state that during this discussion I have been polite to all participants and have not made use of commentary that ridicules or belittles my opponents’ arguments.  I have made every effort to remain polite and considerate to all parties.  I would ask for the same in return vtboy and warn you that asking if my argument is serious certainly borders on disrespectful.  I do not believe that I have ever given any indication that my arguments are not thought out and reasonable in purpose and at least supported enough to substantiate an actual argument.  If you choose to make this debate something personal or engage in belittling tactics then I will simply call an end to my participation.  I ask only for the same courtesy I have shown and ask only for the respect I am willing to give.

I was not trying to be disrespectful, only emphatic, and did not imagine you might take offense at the remark. In all candor, the idea that anyone might suggest, in the context of this discussion, that religious institutions are just "another business" was startling to me, as was your contention that the absence of language specifically referencing disaster relief programs meant they were not subject to restraint under the First Amendment's religion clauses. In any event, I regret any unintended insult you may have perceived.

Quote

My second point is that the case of Lemon v Kurtzman was not judged based on neutrality or religious intent, but rather entanglement of the government with a religious institution.  Chief Justice Burger notes on several occasions within the brief that the law being considered makes allowances for government oversight and intervention in the disbursement of the funds to the parochial schools.  This oversight is meant to ensure that the funds are appropriated for secular teaching (including teacher salaries, textbooks and materials).  Chief Justice Burger points toward the religious markings, activities and purpose of a parochial school as evidence that such intervention would be required to ensure proper distribution of funds.  That the government would then have to take action to oversee and be witness to private church documents.  Please note the actual reason and law he used to uphold this decision.

“Held: Both statutes are unconstitutional under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, as the cumulative impact of the entire relationship arising under the statutes involves excessive entanglement between government and religion.” Pp. 403 U. S. 611-625.

Chief Justice Burger further go on to elaborate on criterion used in the past by the Supreme Court in regard to public funds used in regard to religious institutions.  This also invalidates your final statement of religious institutions having no access to secular tax dollars. 

“Every analysis in this area must begin with consideration of the cumulative criteria developed by the Court over many years. Three such tests may be gleaned from our cases. First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion, Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U. S. 236, 392 U. S. 243 (1968);
Page 403 U. S. 613
finally, the statute must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion." Walz, supra, at 397 U. S. 674.

The problem with this particular legislation as Chief Justice Burger points out is the final point.

The final paragraph of the foregoing passage, which has since been denominated the "Lemon Test," sets forth three hurdles government action affecting religion must clear to avoid violation of the First Amendment: (i) the action must have a secular purpose; (ii) its primary effect must neither to advance nor to inhibit religion; and (iii) the action must not embroil the government excessively in the affairs of religion. Government action which fails to surmount any one of these obstacles is unconstitutional. The scenario we have been discussing -- use of government funds to replace a church which has been destroyed -- trips over all three.

First, while the purposes behind the creation of FEMA and the allocation of funds for disaster relief are undoubtedly secular, a particular decision by FEMA to supply funds to reconstruct a church manifestly is not. Church buildings exist to promote religious activity. The objective in subsidizing the construction of a fixture so central to religious observance and activity can only be presumed the support of religion.

Second, even assuming for argument's sake FEMA's purpose in rebuilding the church were entirely secular, the primary effect of reconstruction would necessarily be the advancement of religious practice. Again, the central and fundamental functions of church buildings in religious ritual, teaching and proselytizing cannot be ignored. To suggest that the primary effect of constructing a church would be something other than fostering these activities is to disregard reality.

Third, to the extent the church's claimed provision of nonsectarian services to the community were offered as justification for government financing of reconstruction, as you have suggested, FEMA would necessarily need to undertake the same sort of inquiry into those services (e.g., are they truly nonsectarian? are they important to the community?) and the same sort of oversight of use of the public's funds which so concerned Chief Justice Burger in Lemon.

Quote
   
Circuit Court Judge Sutton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit handled a case similar to the one we are currently discussing where city and state funds were used to help rebuild works owned and operated by religious institutions.  As part of a program to reinvigorate the neighborhoods around several new public works, grants were being distributed to property owners and businesses to assist in their rebuilding and maintenance.  Nine of those grants went toward areas owned and operated by religious organizations.

““Everyone agrees that the program allocates benefits to a broad spectrum of entities on a neutral basis, as the City awards grants without regard to the religious, non-religious or a religious nature of the entity. The facial neutrality of the program, everyone also agrees,
does not mask an intent to advance religion: Detroit sought to fix up its downtown, not to
establish a religion. And as will generally be the case when a governmental program
allocates generally available benefits on a neutral basis and without a hidden agenda, this
program does not have the impermissible effect of advancing religion in general or any one
faith in particular. By endorsing all qualifying applicants, the program has endorsed none
of them, and accordingly it has not run afoul of the federal or state religion clauses.”

Circuit Court Judge Sutton also makes a point of noting various other state funded protection and programs offered to religious institutions.

“A comparison to other permitted benefits proves the point. A city may extend sewers
and sidewalks to churches, synagogues and mosques. See Everson, 330 U.S. at 17–18. It
may provide police and fire-protection services to them. See id. And it may extend
property-tax exemptions for charitable organizations to them. See Waltz, 397 U.S. at 680.
All of these generally available benefits facilitate the operation of the religious institution,
either by saving them money directly or by sparing them the expense of providing the
services on their own, and in the process they make it more likely that newcomers will attend
their religious services. Yet the Court has long approved the extension of these general
government benefits to religious entities. The same is true of school-bus services, books and
school technology offered to religious schools, even though the assistance facilitates the
religious and secular missions of the recipients. See Everson, 330 U.S. at 17–18; Allen, 392
U.S. at 238, 244–48; Mitchell, 530 U.S. at 809–14 (plurality opinion); id. at 836–37(O’Connor, J., concurring in the judgment). If a city may save the exterior of a church from
a fire, it is hard to understand why it cannot help that same church with peeling paint or tuckpointing—at least when it provides the same benefit to all downtown buildings on the same
terms.”

The Sixth Circuit case you quoted -- Amerian Atheists, Inc. v. City of Detroit Downtown Development Authority -- involved uses of government funds which are readily and materially distinguishable from what we have been discussing. The case is thus not relevant to the question at hand.

To begin with, your statement that the municipal funds at issue in American Atheists were available for "rebuilding" is misleading. The government program in American Atheists provided partial reimbursement of funds spent in giving facelifts to buildings in blighted downtown Detroit, including churches ("As to buildings, applicants could receive grants for “[p]ermanent physical improvements” to “building facades generally visible from a public right-of-way,” ... such as renovations to storefront windows, exterior-lighting fixtures, masonry, brickwork, awnings, shutters, exterior doors, windows and signs"). In contrast, we have been discussing a scenario under which the government supplies money to construct a home for religious activity where none exists. The church buildings in American Atheists were already there and already functioned as churches. The distinction is paramount, as the grants in American Atheists did not create physical facilities for the performance of religious functions, whereas FEMA financing of church rebuilding would.

Quote
Please make note that the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel has previously stated ““a FEMA disaster grant is analogous to the sort of aid that qualifies as ‘general government services’ approved by the [Supreme] Court”

DOJ legal opinions are just that -- opinions. They lack the force of law. The one you cite was authored in 2002, during the Bush administration, which was notorious for its hostility to the separation of church and state.

Offline Caela

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #54 on: March 08, 2013, 06:17:33 PM »
Without reading anyone else's response to the OP's question, my initial reaction is, No. I don't think that houses of worship should receive taxpayer money while they hold tax exempt status. There are plenty of individual and businesses that actually pay into the tax system that should be given that money before organizations that haven't paid into the system at all.

And yes, this means that my basic answer would be that any tax exempt organization should be blocked from receiving gov't/taxpayer funds, though not from receiving fund made available from the variety of fundraisers and sponsors that have been earning money for relief aid.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #55 on: March 08, 2013, 06:24:55 PM »
Department of Justice opinions are the statements of recognized, vetted and credentialed members of the Department of Justice giving published statements on matters of law.  To simply disregard their opinions on matters pertaining to their field of expertise is paramount to neglecting the publications of a scientist or physician simply because their opinions are not scientific fact.  Also off handedly dismissing them because of unsubstantiated belief that the entire Department of Justice is corrupt enough to publish misleading documents and present biased opinion is a bit far.  One or two particular members I can understand, the entire Department of Justice is another matter entirely.  Obviously grounds were found, in their opinion, to substantiate use of FEMA funds to assist religious institutions. 

In the case of Detroit, you are correct that the funds are going to structures already in place.  There is little leap to go from structures standing in disrepair to structures damaged by natural causes.  If the city of Detroit can fund construction projects to make the city more slightly, there is no real reason to prevent funds from being used to restore a pre-existing building and improve the local community.  Seems odd that a city can decide to make the Church more slightly and appealing for others, but cannot ensure that the structure is safe to conduct charitable and secular projects to help the community.

As for the Lemon Test, I will address those point by point as presented.

First, basic social theory and principle give testament to the secular important of a social institution such as a religious structure or community center.  The structure provided a service to the community before and so putting the structure back to previous condition will serve a secular purpose.  The funds then will provide secular benefit to the community.

Secondly, the case presented of Lemon v Kurtzman demonstrated that a building or structure funded by a religious institution does not by virtue of its existence promote religion.  If a structure alone promoted religion then the case would have been easily dismissed along with the Detroit case.  Both judges clearly state that the structures were religious in nature and purpose, but did not make their rulings based on this finding.  FEMA has policies in place to ensure neutral disbursement of the funds so that a religion is not promoted or hindered in the process.

Third, I can only assume that you have never had dealings with FEMA.  The money give for disaster relief is based on an assessment of the damages and the stated need of the owner.  FEMA then dispenses money or makes recommendations to the SBA loan committee based on their findings.  As in the case of Detroit, no true oversight is required or needed for FEMA to conduct their business or investigation.  The case of the school, as the Chief Justice indicated, was that law in question mandated oversight of where the funds went.  FEMA has no such stipulations.

Offline BadForm

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #56 on: March 08, 2013, 06:47:42 PM »
Pumpkin Seeds - your argument about funding the repair appears to be based on the secular uses of the religious establishment - soup kitchens, food pantries etc. From a period in my own life a few years ago when my wife and I, though a disability, had lost virtually all income, I can tell you that at least around here only a very small percentage of the religious organizations provide these services at all. Further, where they do provide them they are for very limited times (one afternoon a week etc). Could you indicate whether you feel a religious organization would have to prove they provide such services in order to be rebuilt, and further how much time they must invest in providing such services to meet the criterion?

Offline Sabby

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #57 on: March 09, 2013, 02:58:10 AM »
If I may be so bold...

Want the benefits of paying taxes? Pay taxes.

Offline vtboy

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #58 on: March 09, 2013, 12:21:37 PM »
Department of Justice opinions are the statements of recognized, vetted and credentialed members of the Department of Justice giving published statements on matters of law.  To simply disregard their opinions on matters pertaining to their field of expertise is paramount to neglecting the publications of a scientist or physician simply because their opinions are not scientific fact.  Also off handedly dismissing them because of unsubstantiated belief that the entire Department of Justice is corrupt enough to publish misleading documents and present biased opinion is a bit far.  One or two particular members I can understand, the entire Department of Justice is another matter entirely.  Obviously grounds were found, in their opinion, to substantiate use of FEMA funds to assist religious institutions. 

In our legal system, laws mean what judges say they mean. The legal opinions of judges are law. The opinions of others are not. Period.

The authors of DOJ opinions are lawyers, not judges. Just as lawyers in other corners of the profession advocate legal positions beneficial to their clients, DOJ lawyers urge views of the law which favor the policy choices of their client, the executive administration. When presidents change, the DOJ may abandon previous opinions and adopt different ones which are more consistent with the policy preferences of the new administration. This happened, for example, in 2009, when the DOJ withdrew at least five Bush era opinions endorsing the use of aggressive interrogation techniques on alleged terrorist detainees. In this respect, DOJ opinions are not at all analogous to professional papers published by scientists, since bias may legitimately influence the former but not the latter (indeed, I do not believe the term "opinion" is commonly used to describe publications in scientific and medical journals).

Since the Bush administration was singular among recent administrations in both its willingness to provide material support to religious organizations (e.g., Faith Based Initiatives Program) and its receptiveness to the influence of religion on public policy (e.g., reduction in federal funding for family planning services, curtailment of funding for research on newly created embryonic stem cells, support for sexual abstinence programs, advocacy for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, etc.), it is hardly surprising that the DOJ opinion you cited, written during the Bush years, advocated a restrictive construction of the Establishment Clause. 

Though DOJ opinions are properly viewed in political context, there is nothing in what I wrote that might rationally be understood as accusing the DOJ of corruption for constructing arguments which promote the policy preferences of the administration it serves. Your suggestion to the contrary betrays either a lack of comprehension or intellectual dishonesty.

The major failing of the DOJ opinion, in my view, is its likening of a specific FEMA grant for the reconstruction of a building to be used for religious purposes to  the provision of "general government services," like police and fire protection, which benefit all or a broad segment of a given population and, only incidentally, the religious groups it includes. As I have previously pointed out, the primary effect of government's funding the construction of a church is to promote religion by creating a facility for its practice, a frank violation of at least the second prong of the Lemon test. The same cannot be said of police protection or sanitation services. The error in the DOJ's analysis flows from its focus on the facial neutrality of the law under which FEMA grants are made, rather than on whether the specific use of FEMA funds in issue would principally further religious practice.

Quote
In the case of Detroit, you are correct that the funds are going to structures already in place.  There is little leap to go from structures standing in disrepair to structures damaged by natural causes.  If the city of Detroit can fund construction projects to make the city more slightly, there is no real reason to prevent funds from being used to restore a pre-existing building and improve the local community.  Seems odd that a city can decide to make the Church more slightly and appealing for others, but cannot ensure that the structure is safe to conduct charitable and secular projects to help the community.

To the contrary, the "leap" is a great one, since it involves government in the support of religious function. A church with peeling paint or grimy stonework still functions as a church. A church knocked down by some natural disaster cannot. When the government funds the replacement of a church building which has been destroyed, its aid directly facilitates religious function.   

Quote
As for the Lemon Test, I will address those point by point as presented.

First, basic social theory and principle give testament to the secular important of a social institution such as a religious structure or community center.  The structure provided a service to the community before and so putting the structure back to previous condition will serve a secular purpose.  The funds then will provide secular benefit to the community.

I have no idea what you mean by "social theory and principle," but doubt they have ever been hallmarks of Establishment Clause jurisprudence.

Assuming that, by "community center", you are referring to something operated by a municipality or other secular institution, your lumping it together with a "religious structure" obscures the critical distinction that the former serve secular purposes while the latter serve primarily, if not exclusively, religious ones. In any event, the Supreme Court has already rejected notion that government may fund the construction of buildings for religious use if they are also used to provide some amount of nonsectarian service. See, e.g., Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672 (1971) (holding unconstitutional portions of a law which would have permitted religious use of buildings constructed with government funds after 20 years of solely secular use). The operative principle is that government cannot finance the construction of buildings used either in part or in whole for religious purposes.   

Quote
Secondly, the case presented of Lemon v Kurtzman demonstrated that a building or structure funded by a religious institution does not by virtue of its existence promote religion.  If a structure alone promoted religion then the case would have been easily dismissed along with the Detroit case.  Both judges clearly state that the structures were religious in nature and purpose, but did not make their rulings based on this finding.  FEMA has policies in place to ensure neutral disbursement of the funds so that a religion is not promoted or hindered in the process.

Yes, the existence of a building funded by a religious institution does not necessarily promote religion. But, what does this have to do with the price of beans? A building which exists to house religious functions, like a church, obviously does promote religion. Once again, the question under the second prong of the Lemon test, which you seem strenuously to be avoiding, is whether government's financing of the building of a church -- a building which will be used for preaching, prayer, and biblical brainwashing of the young -- will promote religion. It is sheer casuistry to contend that it would not. 

Quote
Third, I can only assume that you have never had dealings with FEMA.  The money give for disaster relief is based on an assessment of the damages and the stated need of the owner.  FEMA then dispenses money or makes recommendations to the SBA loan committee based on their findings.  As in the case of Detroit, no true oversight is required or needed for FEMA to conduct their business or investigation.  The case of the school, as the Chief Justice indicated, was that law in question mandated oversight of where the funds went.  FEMA has no such stipulations.

Fortunately, I have yet to be cast upon the mercies of FEMA. However, assuming (solely for the sake of argument) that FEMA may grant funds to rebuild churches in which some secular services will be offered, FEMA (or the SBA or whatever other government agency may be involved) will obviously need to adopt and enforce rules calculated to ensure, among other things, that applicant religious organizations satisfy the prerequisite of performing some secular function and that distributed funds will be used only to rebuild and not to subsidize other activities. (The latter problem was not present in the American Atheists case, since the government program in issue did not provide funds prospectively, but instead reimbursed funds which had already spent for approved purposes). 

Offline Sethala

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #59 on: March 11, 2013, 01:37:35 PM »
While I'm a supporter of the first amendment and separation of church and state, I think I'm going to go against that and answer the OP's question with a "yes".  Or rather, I would answer it with a caveat: "yes, they should receive the same support that other businesses and organizations that don't pay taxes are receiving".

For me, the issue of the government giving taxpayer money to help rebuild a HoW isn't that it's religious, but rather its tax status.  I don't know what FEMA's giving to other groups, if there are any non-taxpaying groups that aren't religious in the area, and so on.  My gut reaction is that places that don't give the government money shouldn't get money from the government, but I would say it's discriminating against religion to give non-religious non-taxed groups money if the religious non-taxed groups don't get the same treatment.  As an aside, if there are any HoWs that actually pay taxes, then yes, they should get the same money other tax-paying groups are getting.

I'll also say that the money given has to be the same regardless of what religion the HoW is for, for obvious reasons.  Doing otherwise would definitely be a violation of the First Amendment.

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Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #60 on: March 11, 2013, 01:42:14 PM »
I'm sorry if this is a stupid question.  If it is, please blame my lack-of-being-american-ism.  But...

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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." – First Amendment

(Emphasis mine)

Does that mean states can?  I get that FEMA is federal and so it doesn't matter in this particular case.  But in the general one, can, I dunno, Utah turn round and say "This state has an established church and a portion of our money will go towards supporting it."

Offline Sethala

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #61 on: March 11, 2013, 01:50:01 PM »
There's actually a bit of history to it on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

In short, while the original interpretation was that it only applied to federal government and not the states, later interpretation decided that yes, it applies to state governments too.

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Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #62 on: March 11, 2013, 01:52:19 PM »
I'm sorry if this is a stupid question.  If it is, please blame my lack-of-being-american-ism.  But...

(Emphasis mine)

Does that mean states can?  I get that FEMA is federal and so it doesn't matter in this particular case.  But in the general one, can, I dunno, Utah turn round and say "This state has an established church and a portion of our money will go towards supporting it."

It used to be argued that the states were free to endorse/deny certain religions because the Constitution only addressed the federal government's prohibition.  In fact, several of the states that were formed prior to the Civil War included in their state constitutions a clause that said only Christians could hold public office (and some states included provisions that only certain denominations of Christianity could do so).  However, the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 and that is where the Equal Protection clause and Due Process clause comes from, that said that the Constitution applies to the states just as much as it does the federal government.


Offline Bandita

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #63 on: March 11, 2013, 04:43:33 PM »
Giving a place of worship money to rebuild after a natural disaster isn't supporting said religion.  It's giving them the help that everybody else is getting.  If all places of faith are getting the same assistance, that is not one faith being favored over another.  The government can't favor or discriminate against religion.  The way I see it, not helping them just because they are faith based is discrimination.


And there are some of us who are not religious who would argue that if they help fund 'all places of faith' but don't give to any atheist or agnostic associations, and in fact allow religious groups to intimidate them and force their groups out of neighborhoods, and deface their billboards etc.., then some of us would argue that they are, in fact, supporting religion. 

Another piece of thought:  if the government funds two temples, a mosque, a quaker meeting house, and seventy three churches, is that really fair? It seems more like "establishing a religion."  My point is that they a bunch of organizations who don't pay taxes, there are better places to give money, such as temporary shelters, rebuilding schools, or, just a crazy thought.....

Build some better freaking subways.  Prevent the shutdown from happening again.  Wouldn't prevention of another disaster be far far better than giving money to churches?

*signed: Bitter that my old priest drove a bmw.

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #64 on: March 11, 2013, 05:01:03 PM »
Perhaps the coffers of religious organizations should be taken by the government and used to rebuild homes, abortion clinics, fund wars, or whatever else uncle Sam might deem appropriate. Does that sound fair or does it sound more like theft? Or are religions somehow special and worthy of preferential treatment?



Offline Sethala

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #65 on: March 12, 2013, 02:29:37 AM »
And there are some of us who are not religious who would argue that if they help fund 'all places of faith' but don't give to any atheist or agnostic associations,

I completely agree, but I also agree with the inverse: that if the government is giving to atheist and agnostic groups, they should also give to places of faith.  Now I admit, I don't know what places are eligible for funds or what kind of criteria has to be met, but if there are other places in those areas that are tax exempt and still getting government money to help with damages, then churches (and the like; when I say "churches" it refers to all places of worship) should be eligible to receive the same money.  (Now, if every tax-exempt organization in the area isn't getting government money, then I agree that churches shouldn't either; I haven't looked into the actual situation much, to be honest.)

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and in fact allow religious groups to intimidate them and force their groups out of neighborhoods, and deface their billboards etc.., then some of us would argue that they are, in fact, supporting religion.

While I agree that such acts are heinous, it doesn't seem fair to lump them all into the same group because of a few bad apples.

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Another piece of thought:  if the government funds two temples, a mosque, a quaker meeting house, and seventy three churches, is that really fair? It seems more like "establishing a religion."  My point is that they a bunch of organizations who don't pay taxes, there are better places to give money, such as temporary shelters, rebuilding schools, or, just a crazy thought.....

And giving money to those other places and not the religious buildings would be discrimination, as far as I'm concerned.  As far as the number of buildings that get money, it depends on why they got them.  If those were all of the groups that qualified for the funds, then yes, I say it's fair, even if there's more of one type than another, because that's what the city has.  If the city, however, had two dozen mosques and only one of them got money, while every single church in the city got money, and there wasn't a legitimate reason for the rest of the mosques to not get anything, I agree that it's discriminating against one group.

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Build some better freaking subways.  Prevent the shutdown from happening again.  Wouldn't prevention of another disaster be far far better than giving money to churches?

*signed: Bitter that my old priest drove a bmw.

Probably a better way to spend that money, yes, but in that case I'd say pull it evenly from all of the groups eligible to get money otherwise, not just from the churches.  Again, it's discrimination to say that they don't get money just because they're religious.  (Saying they don't get money because they don't pay taxes, on the other hand, is perfectly alright so long as that criteria applies to all groups.)

Offline Vanity Evolved

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #66 on: March 12, 2013, 06:08:01 PM »
And there are some of us who are not religious who would argue that if they help fund 'all places of faith' but don't give to any atheist or agnostic associations, and in fact allow religious groups to intimidate them and force their groups out of neighborhoods, and deface their billboards etc.., then some of us would argue that they are, in fact, supporting religion. 

This one is a bit more awkward, for me; if you're talking about (or so I've heard) a trend of Atheist churchs - now, if those Atheist churchs count as a religion for the purposes of tax exemption and are forced to raise their own funds? Then absolutely. However, if these churches pay tax? Then no, they are entitled to their tax dollars in rebuilding.

Where it gets awkward is the fact that if a building isn't religious, it is Atheist; a hospital doesn't push a religious agenda, so it is giving to an 'atheist group'. It's the awkwardness of the Atheist label; if you treat it as a religion, which it isn't, then you wind up with lots of crazy things popping up, like 'We should fund rebuilding of shops, because these shops are atheist', if I'm making any sense.

Offline vtboy

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #67 on: March 13, 2013, 06:23:18 AM »
This one is a bit more awkward, for me; if you're talking about (or so I've heard) a trend of Atheist churchs - now, if those Atheist churchs count as a religion for the purposes of tax exemption and are forced to raise their own funds? Then absolutely. However, if these churches pay tax? Then no, they are entitled to their tax dollars in rebuilding.

Where it gets awkward is the fact that if a building isn't religious, it is Atheist; a hospital doesn't push a religious agenda, so it is giving to an 'atheist group'. It's the awkwardness of the Atheist label; if you treat it as a religion, which it isn't, then you wind up with lots of crazy things popping up, like 'We should fund rebuilding of shops, because these shops are atheist', if I'm making any sense.

There is a difference between an organization or association whose mission or practice it is to promote the view that there is no god, and one, like a barber shop or a not-for-profit trust for medical research, to which views about the existence of god are entirely irrelevant. The former should be treated by government the same way religions are treated. The latter should not.

Offline Vanity Evolved

Re: Should places of worship receive public funds to rebuild after Sandy?
« Reply #68 on: March 13, 2013, 03:56:45 PM »
There is a difference between an organization or association whose mission or practice it is to promote the view that there is no god, and one, like a barber shop or a not-for-profit trust for medical research, to which views about the existence of god are entirely irrelevant. The former should be treated by government the same way religions are treated. The latter should not.

Mm. Admittedly, I did word my post badly, on looking at it again; I should have added 'secular' in there. If someone creates the Richard Dawkin's <3 Society, I completely expect them to recieve funding, unlike churches - unless they get to claim tax exemption status, also.