Reviews | The constitutional separation of Church and State is threatened


Small business administration has given up her normal period prohibiting aid for religious activities. Remarkably, he leaned implicitly but definitely on a reading of the First Amendment that not only allows cash assistance to places of worship for basic religious activities, but requires the government to pay for those activities.

The paycheck protection program violates the constitutional rule requiring the separation of church and state, and it does so on a massive scale. Nine thousand Catholic parishes have received loans so far. The Archdiocese of Louisville, for example, received over $ 20 million through 84 entities, for an average of $ 238,000 each. A St. James Church, Parish and School in Elizabethtown, Ky., received loans totaling $ 439,800.

In addition, a national investigation found that 40 percent of all Protestant churches had requested government funds and that 59 percent of those requests were approved. The Jewish federations of North America reported By the end of April, 575 organizations had received loans, with a median of $ 250,000 each and a total of $ 312 million. The recipients included more than 200 synagogues. With 445 entities awaiting news of their nominations, the JFNA estimated that Jewish nonprofits could receive $ 500 million from the program.

Of course, the rule enacted by Justice O’Connor 20 years ago is subject to review by the current Court, with its Conservative majority. At least five judges have sign opinions indicating a desire to authorize public aid administered in a neutral manner with regard to religion and whose content is secular. Later this month, the court is expected to decide on funding Case in which it has the option of going further and demanding that religious schools be included in a school choice program. Almost certainly, the court led by Chief Justice John Roberts will continue its campaign to revolutionize First Amendment law so that it favors religious actors.

What is remarkable is not that the federal government is spending taxpayers’ money on religious purposes in a way never seen before, or even on a large scale. This is the lack of perspective that this program has generated. When it comes to the public funding of religion, the separation of church and state has all but disappeared, without a shout or even a whimper.

More than likely, this tacit acceptance reflects compassion for small businesses and nonprofits struggling during the pandemic. This concern is completely understandable, especially since places of worship, like many other organizations, have been plagued by the state’s public health restrictions. But like Judge David Souter once observed, “Constitutional lines must be drawn, and on one side of each is an otherwise sympathetic case that causes impatience with the Constitution and the line.”

Constitutional interpretations forged in times of crisis tend to persist after the danger has subsided. This is especially true in this context, where the separation of church and state had already been the subject of sustained attack, making fundamental doctrine all the more vulnerable.


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