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Critics Blast Bush Plan to Build Churches with Taxpayer Funds

Compiled by GayToday

Washington, D.C.--Bush Administration officials announced last week that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will allow federal money to be used by religious entities to construct buildings where worship is held as long as sections of the structures are also used for providing social services. Critics of government financing for edifices used in religious propagandizing reacted swiftly.

"This administration has simply gone too far in its assault on church-state separation," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The 'faith-based initiative' was bad enough, but now Bush wants taxpayers to foot the bill for church expansion projects. This policy is outrageous as well as patently unconstitutional; it is bound to spark litigation." Previous HUD policy barred religious bodies from using housing and community building funds to expand houses of worship. Richard A. Hauser, HUD's general counsel, told The New York Times that approach will be reversed. "There's no reason you can't have a cathedral upstairs and something that would look like any other room in the basement," Hauser said. An editorial in Tuesday's New York Times (January 28) titled "Federal Funds to Build Churches" said: "Last week's announcement is only the latest example of the Bush administration's allowing the religious right to set its agenda." Quoting President Thomas Jefferson, the Times reminded its readers that the First Amendment requires "a wall between church and state."

The Times noted: "Sending taxpayer money directly into church building funds, as the Bush administration proposes to do, clearly goes too far."

AU's Lynn said the new policy will prove to be unworkable. "How is the government to determine when there's too much religious activity in a taxpayer-funded building?" he asked. "My guess is that once these facilities are built with tax funds, no government inspector is ever going to come around and check."

Lynn said AU's Legal Department is studying the proposal. The organization, he said, will not hesitate to sue to defend church-state separation.

"Churches that want to add on an annex should turn to their members for the money to do it, not the taxpayer," Lynn said. "Houses of worship built with federal funds simply have no place in America."
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