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The SHJ strongly opposes President Bush’s adoption of John Ashcroft’s initiative favoring federal funding of sectarian social service programs through the mechanism of charitable choice. The dangers created by these financial arrangements between church and state are many, most of the perils involving violations of the First Amendment guarantees of separation between government and religion.
First, these programs are predicated on the presumption that theism is equatable to goodness and that religious faith is a cure for social maladies dealt with by religious service agencies.
Equally threatening to the constitutional guarantee is the inevitability that under such programs federal funds will be used for worship or proselytization.
Third, the government will be required to choose among competing religious organizations applying for funding.
Fourth, recipients of governmental funding are necessarily subject to government regulation. This would entail entanglement of state and church prohibited by the First Amendment. For federally funded institutions are subject to federal laws not generally applicable to religious institutions. Can a temple receiving such funds discriminate against non-Jews in its rabbinical selection? Can a fundamentalist church receiving such funds discriminate against gays? Can a Catholic church receiving such funds reject female priesthood?
And finally, it is historical fact that separation of church and state, which substantially occurred in the United States only following World War II through Supreme Court interpretations of the First Amendment, served as a fundamental force in the elimination of anti-Semitism and in the creation of a more tolerant society generally. It is imperative that we not return to the unhappy age of combative religions.
For these reasons, government participation in faith-based action is to be opposed.
— May 4, 2001