Damage to the roof of the Rockport Assembly of God Church after Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas. Photo courtesy of Becket Law Firm

There's room for compromise on FEMA helping houses of worship

(RNS) — Disaster relief is the latest front in our never-ending conflict over church and state. Specifically, the question is whether Federal Emergency Management Agency aid should be available to help houses of worship rebuild when disaster strikes.

Earlier this month, FEMA issued new guidelines removing restrictions on such aid. This flies in the face of a 1971 Supreme Court decision, Tilton v. Richardson, which said it would violate the establishment clause for religious colleges or universities ever to use a facility they built with public funds for religious purposes.

But last year's Trinity Lutheran decision, which said a church could not be barred from applying to a public program to resurface its playground, opened the way for a challenge to Tilton. Three Texas churches harmed by Hurricane Harvey sued to obtain FEMA rebuilding funds, a federal judge turned them down, and the churches took their case to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Now, of course, the legal challenge will come from the other side — as in the church-state separationists who filed a brief supporting FEMA's prior position: Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League and the Baptist Joint Committee.

The Trump administration, which embraces any religious rights claim not made by Muslims, will be defending the new FEMA rule.

In the meantime, however, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, and the Senate will soon be taking up, a disaster relief bill (H.R. 4667) that carves out a middle ground. It says that houses of worship can apply for FEMA aid in rebuilding, but that the aid

shall only be used to cover costs of purchasing or replacing, without limitation, the building structure, building enclosure components, building envelope, vertical and horizontal circulation, physical plant support spaces, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems (including heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and fire and life safety systems), and related site improvements.

In other words, a church would not be able to use public funds to repair or replace its altar, pulpit, pews and other items of a strictly religious character.

No doubt, FEMA support for repairing the building structure, etc., would help the church carry out its religious mission. But this could be seen as state aid comparable to its (constitutionally permitted) exemption from having to pay property taxes.

Under existing law, nonprofit facilities that are eligible for FEMA aid include museums, zoos, performing arts facilities, community arts centers, community centers, libraries, homeless shelters, senior citizen centers, rehabilitation facilities, shelter workshops, food banks and broadcasting facilities. Ineligible are facilities used primarily for political, athletic, recreational, vocational, academic training and conferences.

I think most people would agree that houses of worship fall more into the former category than the latter. Regardless, it's worth considering the question posed by Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Committee (which is not opposing the pending federal legislation), to wit: Is the government substituting for the parishioner or is it dealing with extraordinary circumstances?

"Tilton involved substituting the public fisc for a private donor," says Stern. "Disaster relief provides no opportunity for the government to become a supporter of the church."

The separationists aren't likely to be persuaded by this distinction, if for no other reason than their belief that every compromise just gives the other side an excuse to push the envelope further. If you think they're mistaken, just recall how that side treated the Obama administration's accommodation for religious nonprofits on the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.

And so we have yet another sad chapter in the religious polarization of American life today.


  1. This is absurd !
    Don’t these religious institutions have insurance on their structures ?
    If not – too bad !
    Let their parishioners pay for the repairs.
    If the religious want govt services – let them pay govt taxes.
    To say they’re non-profit is laughable !

  2. It’s a double standard that conservative churches want the government to pay to repair their buildings but they don’t want the government to pay for health care insurance for all Americans.

  3. And the solution? By bringing reality to religious beliefs, religion would disappear i.e. no churches or temples or mosques needed or desired.

    Again, to start this reality:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than one minute or ten seconds if you are a fast reader: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  4. Religious institutions pay no taxes, yet they want taxpayer support from FEMA.

    So if Westboro Baptist church in Kansas gets leveled by a Tornado — the taxpayers cover it getting rebuilt..Real nice !!

  5. …separationists aren’t likely to be persuaded by this distinction

    Because it’s a meaningless distinction, Mark. The fact that public funds can’t be used to build an altar is beside the point. A church/synagogue/temple/mosque building – i.e., the walls, the foundation, etc. – itself serves an expressly and primarily religious purpose. Namely, to facilitate religious practice. Hence, for the government to give taxpayer dollars to religious institutions in the context of disaster relief still undermines the Establishment Clause.

    Because churches, etc. are already tax exempt, this is, in effect, a subsidy. They want to use my money – and yours – to support religious places, worship, and ministry. Ironic that you would choose to express your support for such a thing on Religious Freedom Day, which commemorates the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Apropos this piece, it reads (in part): “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.”

    But in any case, why do people persist in thinking there is a compromise to be made, or that religious organizations will, of their own accord, stop chasing more entanglement? The fact that the Trinity Lutheran decision, itself allegedly “limited,” is being used here is an example of religious litigants pushing the boundaries, and demonstrates how such “limitations” rarely matter to creative lawyers and receptive courts.

  6. Depends. One might argue that churches, temples and mosques which of course are paid for and owned by the members are an extension of members’ homes which are taxed quite heavily.

    However: There are different opinions as to what a religion really is or what a non-profit is and therefore all non-profits should file Form 990’s. At the moment, religious groups are exempt.

    Also, to be fair there should be no tax-exemptions for any group and that includes the Democratic and Republican Parties. Faith and community initiative grant monies should also be cancelled and there should also be no tax deductions for contributions made to churches, charities and/or non-profits.

  7. I don’t want my tax dollars to help build, repair, or support houses of worship. Religious organizations already get free roads, water/sewer, and all kinds of “support” from the infrastructure they use but do not pay for. I am not opposed to that, but that is as far as I think we should go.

    I think this is a slippery slope kind of thing. The Trinity Lutheran decision is the perfect example. So, now we should do a little to help after natural disasters? After this, what is next?

    There are enough public needs that should be where we put our money – helping rebuild roads, water and sewer systems, dams, helping to replace public buildings damaged by the hurricanes, restore electric power in Puerto Rico, help them rebuild homes where people live. We need to put our money where all citizens benefit, not just a few of a particular religious belief.

  8. For the answer as to why we have, as the author notes, “religious polarization of American life today”, we need look no further than the author’s comment referencing “(t)he Trump administration, which embraces any religious rights claim not made by Muslims”.

    First we must ask what public purpose does FEMA’s legislation and enabling regulations fulfill? If it provides for reconstruction of a community – which includes the ancillary facilities of hospitals, schools, utilities, and churches – then as in the Trinity Lutheran case certain aid is surely permitted.

    The author claims that providing aid “flies in the face of a 1971 Supreme Court decision, Tilton v. Richardson, which said it would violate the establishment clause for religious colleges or universities ever to use a facility they built with public funds for religious purposes”. Well, no, the Tilton decision took issue with the waiver of federal interest in facilities after a period of 20 years, which would effectively permit the involved colleges and universities to convert federally funded construction to – say – chapels in year 21.

    A fuller citation than the author’s is:


    which includes this from the opinion:

    “The simplistic argument that every form of financial aid to church-sponsored activity violates the Religion Clauses was rejected long ago in Bradfield v. Roberts, 175 U. S. 291 (1899).”

    Bradfield v. Roberts dealt with a federal construction grant to a hospital operated by a religious order, and “no harm”, “no foul” in late 19th century America was the conclusion.

    H.R. 4667 would make statutory the results of Trinity Lutheran, which would eliminate any “discretion” on the part of FEMA which could inadvertently result in building an altar.

  9. I suppose this goes along with your opposition to Catholic hospitals not performing abortions and making contraception available, eh?

    Religious organizations – for the most part – do not get free water and sewer, or electricity, or anything else that everyone else does not get free.

  10. They did not pay taxes to support the building of the infrastructure that delivers clean water, the sewage treatment plants, the roads, the police and firemen who provide protection.

    I think the balance we have found with providing that infrastructure is as far as we need to go. I do not think it is up to governments to fund the building of religious institutions or to repair them if they are damaged by fire, flood, and other acts of God or man.

    I am fine with Catholic hospitals providing limited services, as long as the public has access to legal and recognized medical care that they won’t provide. I am not okay with the ability of Catholic service providers to actually limit the ability of people to get legal and medically recognized health care because they control the market. Dont’ forget that Catholic health care also won’t provide subscriptions to contraceptives and won’t perform sterilizations. It isn’t all about abortions, but also about something so basic as contraceptives.

    I think health care needs to be regulated to assure that citizens have the right to get legally recognized health care based on their own beliefs, and not limited by the beliefs of the provider.

  11. And you know as soon as a mosque applies, all hell will break loose.

  12. Whether they paid taxes to support the building of the infrastructure that delivers clean water, the sewage treatment plants, the roads, the police and firemen who provide protection depends on the jurisdiction. States and locales differ.

    The only universal exemption is from Federal income taxes except for unrelated business income, which is taxed.

    However, were that a reason to deny aid, FEMA would be obliged to ensure nothing was provided to the poor and indigent as well. That’s the sort of problem one gets into when beginning with the conclusion and working backwards into a rationalization for it.

    The people in the communities served paid for the water, roads, and so on so it would seem appropriate to let them decide.

    FEMA funds go beyond funding infrastructure and provide for restoration of homes, businesses, and so on – the restoration of the community as a whole.

    You were unable to cite a single example of anyone being denied services because Catholic hospitals “control the market” since it doesn’t happen. Ms. Miller, the author and ex-Catholic employee of “Catholics for Choice”, was also unable to provide an example in the article – she had to intimate that somehow it MIGHT happen. The ACLU has repeatedly run into the same problem in courts across the country.

    If you believe the government should provide the services you want, then you’re free to lobby it to do so and build whatever healthcare facilities and services you deem appropriate. Or you and people of like mind can fund it.

    However, if you think grabbing private property and compelling those with religious objections to do your bidding is swell, I get the whiff of fascism.

  13. For the government to give taxpayer dollars to Episcopalian churches in the context of disaster relief while denying it to synagogues, Catholics, and mosques would undermine the Establishment Clause.

    The government is prohibited from favoring one religion or belief over another, or belief over disbelief, or disbelief over belief, not compelled to disfavor religion in general.

    The founders – including Jefferson – believed religion to be a common good which benefitted the commonwealth.

    The government uses money every day to support things that some portion of the electorate disfavors.

    The problem is not religions chasing more entanglement. Establishment is prohibited, not “entanglement”.

    The problem is folks like Americans United, who want to rewrite the First Amendment to comport with their interpretation of Jefferson’s infelicitous metaphor “wall of separation between church and state” which he coined on New Year’s Day, 1802, in a missive to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut.

    When he wrote it the Congregationalist church was legally established in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

    Jefferson himself had endorsed the use of federal funds to build churches and to support Christian missionaries working among the Indians.

    Jefferson’s wall was erected between the national and state governments on matters pertaining to religion and not, more generally, between the church and all civil government. His wall’s primary function was to delineate the constitutional jurisdictions of the national and state governments, respectively, on religious concerns, such as setting aside days in the public calendar for prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving, which as President he refused to do.

  14. Apparently all hell has already broken loose according to Mark Silk.

  15. Yes, we should eliminate the poor and indigent from aid since they pay no taxes.

  16. Compelling religions to file 990s would involve excessive entanglement, which as I read the article and other comments is a bad thing, eh?

  17. If the Founders personally believed religion to be a good thing for society , they did not support using taxpayer dollars to do so. You really should read some Madison, and as for Jefferson, start by reading the Virginia Statute I discussed, in which he wrote:

    That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness; and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; (Source)

    With regard to the Kaskaskia Indians, you might want to read this: David Barton’s Capitol Tour: Did Thomas Jefferson Spend Federal Funds to Evangelize the Kaskaskia Indians?.

    To save you time, the bottom line is that Jefferson gave William Henry Harrison broad latitude to negotiate terms with the Kaskaskia tribe in order to foster amity between the poor tribe and the government and thus avoid war. One of those terms was indeed to build a church (specifically Catholic; the tribe had already previously converted) and pay for a priest for 7 years. However, this is very different indeed from Barton’s claim (and now yours) that Jefferson supported using taxpayer money to build churches or support religion among the general public.

  18. No, but we should eliminate aid to religious institutions with real estate and other assets, often worth at least tens of millions of $…yet who pay no taxes.

  19. Sure, as soon as they pay taxes. If they want tax supported funding, they should contribute towards it.

  20. “Jefferson’s infelicitous metaphor “wall of separation between church and state”

    Sorry, Dominionist liar quoting David Barton fictions, but the separation of church and state as a concept predated the nation by about a century through the writings of Roger Williams. It was precisely the concept behind the establishment clause. To argue otherwise is to claim that religious freedom is a sham. That free exercise of religion only exists at the bequest of a majority faith.

  21. I can actually quote Jefferson’s letter including the phrase, as well as the Baptist letter to him to which he was responding.

    Nonestablishment does not involve a “wall of separation”. Germany provides the perfect example.

    You need to read better propaganda.

  22. So, if the church is flattened, nothing for them? What’s the cutoff amount in dollars?

    Charity hospitals pay no taxes. No aid for them either?

  23. Barton is your citation, not mine.

    You’re apparently unaware that Jefferson provided a chapel in the Capitol for the Congress, and attended it himself.

    And so on.

    One does tire of dealing with “information” from organizations whose sole purpose for existence is to erect a wall the Constitution and its amendments did not.

    Especially when they lose case after case in the Supreme Court.

  24. No aid for those charity hospitals or the orphanage, then.

  25. Not with tax money. If churches want to run those things tax free, they can hit up their parishioners.

    The only thing I can see tax money going towards in this context would be efforts to keep a building or site from being a public health hazard. Then its tax money going to the benefit of tax payers.

  26. Jefferson’s letter was not the first instance of the term or concept. It was first written down a century earlier. Dominionists use Jefferson to give the fiction that his letter is the source of the separation of church and state.

    But it was clear from inception that was the intent of the establishment clause. Separation of Church and State was (still is) a core belief of the Anabaptist sects who founded PA and RI colonies.

    Attacking the separation of church and state is attacking free exercise of religion as well. When government officially endorses a given faith, it is inherently discriminatory in appearance and intent.

    “Germany provides the perfect example.”

    Germany and a good lot of Western Europe doesn’t know religious freedom from a hole in the ground. They have official tax sponsored religions with their own privileges. Minority faiths get no such consideration. They have what is best termed as religious tolerance. Minority faiths exist and can practice at the behest of majority approval. That is not freedom. Not how we know it here.

    This is why you can have a headscarf ban in France but it would never fly here. Why a law forbidding voodoo animal sacrifices would be fine in Germany but our Supreme Court shoots something like that down (real case https://www.oyez.org/cases/1992/91-948 )

    You are repeating garbage from known liars about history. People who have no regard for religious freedom.

  27. The phrase “wall of separation between church and state” originates with Jefferson and has no antecedents.

    Opposing establishment, another matter, does have antecedents which you erroneously conflate with the phrase “wall of separation between church and state”.

    You obviously don’t know Germany from a hole in the ground. What, for example, is the “established church” of Germany?

  28. Separation of church and state is what protects free exercise of religion. When apparatus of religion and government are entwined the end result is always sectarian discrimination. Our founders recognized that. Dominionists hate the concept.

    Germany has a church tax. Protestant and Catholic believers are taxed in order to fund their churches. So several Christian sects are officially established by law.

  29. Well then, your question needed additional context then. It makes little difference here. A tax exempt organization is not one which needs to be supported with tax funding. They get the benefit of that status with their operations. It comes at a cost as well.

  30. Actually, I’m not unfamiliar with that claim. Since that claim too originates with Barton, I lack confidence in your disavowal. But whatever.

    No one is asking you to believe in organizations. The Framer’s intent the historical record is pretty clear. As for SCOTUS losses, history is replete with questionable rulings. I’m not happy about it in these most recent cases, but this too shall pass.

  31. It needed zero additional context.

    Your aim was at those who do not pay taxes. I threw a couple of them in and you saw “religion”, which makes it look like you’re a “religion” hammer and everything is a “religion” nail.

    Which I think is the situation.

    The situation here is a tax exempt organization whose facility, along with much of the rest of the community, was devastated by a natural calamity.

  32. “Separation of church and state” and “a wall of separation between church and state” do not appear in the Constitution.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    The founders knew what an established religion was, what prohibiting the exercise of religion was. They came from England which had an established church and persecuted those who refused to join it.

    What our Constitution prohibits is an established church or infringement of any church.

    Germany has NO established church. And the article you cite proves that. You can belong to any church or no church.

  33. It is the very core concept and only workable interpretation of the establishment clause. There is no other interpretation that has ever been applied nor is workable to ensure religious freedom.

    You are making bad faith and dishonest arguments because you are at odds with the concept of religious freedom.

    Without separation of church and state, free exercise of religion is impossible. The government becomes inherently discriminatory.

    To argue against the separation is to argue against free exercise

  34. No, as Germany demonstrates, and the Trinity Lutheran case, and on and on demonstrate is not the only workable interpretation.

    And, no, everyone who disagrees with you is not making bad faith and dishonest arguments.

    For the most part they’re simply pointing out you do not know what you’re writing about.

  35. My aim is not to entangle the apparatus of government with that of churches and thus violating core concepts of religious freedom. It is also to ensure tax funds go to meet public needs, especially to those paying them.

    You wanted a “gotcha moment” by intentionally failing to clarify your position. You are neither honest nor making a rational point.

    You want tax payer subsidies for your narrow personal interests, you need to pay into the system.

  36. Not really. As my article showed, people do not really consent to tax subsidized faith. It undermines both church and state. Plus it created an inherently discriminatory environment based on ones faith. Trinity Lutheran turned on issues of public benefit and hazard not church interests.

  37. As the article showed, no one is under an obligation to register to support a church.

    And no established church exists.

  38. Your aim is not at issue. If you want the Constitution amended to suit what you want, there is a process for that.

    What our Constitution as written prohibits is an establishment of religion.

  39. Not my aim. It is the aim of the government in compliance with 1st and 14th Amendment religious rights.

    The Constitution is not Bible study. “as written” is a meaningless phrase here. It uses rather open ended terminology for the judiciary to interpret in light of actual legal conflicts. The establishment of religion comes in a variety of ways. Most notably government subsidy of religious organizations for purely sectarian goals.

    As I said before, if the goal is to make repairs to prevent a hazard to the general public, then there is no issue here. But if the goal is to further purely sectarian ends then it is a problem.

  40. When baptism records become government records, there is something seriously wrong with a system. People are technically registered at birth until they opt out. More proof that government entanglement with the apparatus of churches is damaging to both.

  41. When baptism records become government records, you can be fairly certain you’re in another country. It seems to work fine in Germany, so if it’s proof of anything, it is proof that government entanglement with the apparatus of churches is benign.

  42. If your aim is compliance with the First Amendment, then you’ll cease braying about separation and start looking at establishment.

  43. So far, you have not represented it accurately, honestly or correctly. So your take on my POV is not worth very much. Establishment Clause is separation of church and state. Your disdain for religious freedom is duly noted.

  44. Like Germany. It doesn’t work fine in Germany at all. It has actually undermined church membership. It has led to tax supported majority faiths and others are left out. Germany has engaged in government sponsored sectarian discrimination. Religious education is compulsory in some German states. Apostasy requires paying a fee.

    Our founders found such entanglement malignant. They were explicit about avoiding such connections. The Establishment Clause was written specifically to keep church and state separate.

  45. Oh, you mean I don’t agree with you.

    I do agree with the plain text of the First Amendment.

    I also agree with the Supreme Court decisions interpreting it.

    Please note my disdain for your odd interpretation of it.

  46. It works fine in Germany.

    However, no one is proposing the German system for the USA.

    “Entanglement”, “separation of church and state”, “wall of separation between church and state”, none of them appear in the Constitution.

    The Supreme Court does not see it way, nor do I.

  47. Evidently not, given how its slowly destroying those churches from within.

    Nobody, but you is suggesting it. You used them as an example of established churches in developed nations. Separation of church and state evidently is a far more workable concept for religious freedom than alternatives.

  48. Of course not, you start off with phony revisionist nonsense and just took it from there. The law is not Evangelical Bible study. The language of the constitution when it comes to civil liberties is meant to be open ended and interpreted in light of real world conflicts. This is why the judiciary has that role. The plain text of the constitution does not support entanglement of church and state. That would be establishment of religion.

    “I also agree with the Supreme Court decisions interpreting it.”

    Only this time, but evidently not on previous occasions. If you are honest here, then I won’t ever hear from you about the judicial activism of Roe v. Wade, or Obergfell, right? But we both know that won’t happen.

  49. Perhaps some definitions would help those trying to follow along.

    phony revisionist nonsense – the Constitution as written and as interpreted by the courts

    Evangelical Bible study – anything which diminutive potato disagrees with

    entanglement of church and state – a concocted phrase not contained in the First Amendment

  50. 1 – I used them as an example of non-established churches in a different system. An established church is one in which a single church is the “national church”, which Germany does not have.

    2 – “Separation of church and state” is a phrase which is not contained in the Constitution of the United States or any of its amendments.

    3 – Drops in church membership have been a fact of life in Europe for over a generation.

    4 – If it was actually destroying churches, you’d want it here.

  51. 1. A system which is rather dysfunctional when it comes to preserving religious freedom.

    2. An argument without merit given the concept is THE interpretation of the establishment clause from its inception and sole application. It is the only good faith interpretation of the establishment clause by the people charged with making such interpretations and applications. Any less is simply an excuse for government backed sectarian discrimination.

    Its not Bible study. Having an opinion on the meaning here is not going to be as relevant as legal arguments on the meaning here which have been used and applied.

    3. Established churches being a large driver in that decline. Nothing undermines religious authority more than giving it political authority as well. Roger Williams spoke of the wall of separation between church and state in the 17th Century as a way to preserve the integrity and authority of both. Time has proven him correct there.

    4. Snide remark having little to do with the subject. 🙂

  52. 1. The Germans are not complaining.

    2. “Separation of church and state” was not THE interpretation or an interpretation of the establishment, nor its sole application, from the beginning. It does not appear until 1802 in a private letter by anyone significant. It is at best a metaphor, about which the Supreme Court state that “the metaphor itself is not a wholly accurate description of the practical aspects of the relationship that in fact exists between church and state”.

    3. The only European country with established churches in the 20th century were England and the Scandinavian states, and in none of them was establishment a significant factor in the decline of attendance.

    4. If you make snide remarks, you get snide remarks.

  53. 1. They are. I even showed an article which said so. Round and round we go.

    2. The Supreme Court has said otherwise. They are the last word on the subject. It appears prior to the existence of the Constitution in the writings of Roger Williams and William Penn. It was very much the concept behind the establishment clause. You are engaging in well worn Dominionist fictions. Without separation of church and state, you have no protection of free exercise of religion. Your goal apparently is merely attacking 1st amendment religious rights to assert a discriminatory sectarian agenda.

    3. Pretty much all of Western Europe has state sponsored/recognized churches.

    4. Whatevs.

  54. 1 – What you showed was that church membership is declining. But it is declining everywhere in Europe.

    2 – The Supreme Court has said otherwise, as cited multiple times. If you can’t tell the difference between not establishing a religion, and separation of church and state, procure a dictionary.

    3 – No.

  55. 1. Half truth there. Church taxes are hastening church membership decline

    2. Not once did SCOTUS ever interpret the Establishment Clause as anything besides the separation of church and state. You are simply lying. There is no other interpretation which actually protects religious freedom. There is no such case which limits the clause as you claim. To do so would remove any power it has and invite sectarian discrimination as a matter of course.

    3. You haven’t been good at representing facts honestly so far. Why is this any difference.

  56. 2. Apparently you’re unfamiliar with the Trinity Lutheran case last year.

    Read it and get back to us.

    Religious freedom does not translate into freedom from religion, despite your wish that it did.

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