Bush Wants To Place Anti-Separationist Law Professor On Federal Court
President George W. Bush has nominated a University of Utah law professor known for his strident hostility toward the separation of church and state for a seat on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Bush announced the nomination of Michael W. McConnell May 9, despite the scholar's consistant opposition to First Amendment principles such as church-state separation. Americans United announced that same day that it will oppose the nomination.
"This nomination represents a terrible assault on American freedom by the Bush administration," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "McConnell's record is one of relentless hostility for individual rights. I urge the Senate to swiftly reject his nomination.
"McConnell is the Religious Right's dream court nominee," continued Lynn. "He's a conservative Christian who's willing to use the force of government to impose his viewpoint."
Lynn noted that McConnell is a member of the Christian Legal Society, a board member of the right-wing Federalist Society and an advisor of the Becket Fund all groups seeking a radical abandonment of the Supreme Court's church-state doctrine.
The AU head charged that McConnell has a long record of extremism on a broad range of individual rights issues. He pointed to the following examples:
McConnell called for a "radical" departure from decades of church-state separation rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court in a March 11, 2000, interview with the Salt Lake Tribune and has indicated his support for school-sponsored graduation prayer, voucher subsidies for religious schools and charitable choice aid to ministries.
In a Winter 1992 article in the University of Chicago Law Review, McConnell insisted that the Constitution allows broad public funding of religious institutions. "We must therefore reject the central animating idea of modern Establishment Clause analysis: that taxpayers have a constitutional right to insist that none of their taxes be used for religious purposes," he wrote.
McConnell, writing in the Utah Law Review in 1999, described church-state separation as never having been a "plausible or attractive conception of proper relations between government and religion in the modern activist state."
The New York Times Magazine on Jan. 30, 2000, reported McConnell as saying that religion cannot be separated from other areas of life. "Many people think that it's possible to have an entirely secular education and any religious training can be on the side. I don't believe that religion is something which is a separable aspect of life," he said.
Writing in American Enterprise magazine in January of 1993, McConnell criticized Supreme Court rulings that upheld church-state separation, including Lee v. Weisman (1992), which prohibited government-sponsored prayer at public school graduation ceremonies, and County of Allegheny v. ACLU (1989), which limited government endorsement of religious displays on public property. He said these decisions "have nothing to do with freedom of religion. There is not a single person in these cases who has been hindered or discouraged by government action from following a religious practice or way of life."
According to the Los Angeles Times (Jan. 13, 2001), McConnell praised Attorney General John Ashcroft's 1999 remarks at Bob Jones University as "beautiful." (In his remarks at the controversial school, Ashcroft said the source of America's character is "godly and eternal" and "We have no king but Jesus.") McConnell said Ashcroft "is saying freedom flourishes and the equality of human beings flourish when man is subordinate to God."
In 1987, McConnell was an aggressive advocate of Robert Bork's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. McConnell said "there is no more distinguished jurist in the land" than Bork and criticized the prospects of Supreme Court nominees who are "unknown, muddleheaded middle-of-the-roaders." (July 12, 1987, Newsday)
Lynn noted that McConnell has argued several church-state cases at the Supreme Court, each time arguing for a lower wall of separation. Last year he argued Mitchell v. Helms, advocating increased public aid to private religious schools, and in 1995 he argued Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, seeking public university assistance for religious publications.
McConnell is also a strident opponent of legal abortion who has frequently denounced Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court rulings upholding abortion rights. In a Jan. 22, 1998, Wall Street Journal opinion piece, he blasted the Supreme Court for its "extreme vision of abortion rights." McConnell argued that the high court can deny legal protection "to fetuses only if it presupposes they are not persons.... One can make a pretty convincing argument, however, that fetuses are persons. They are alive; their species is Homo sapiens."
In 1996, McConnell signed an extreme anti-abortion document called the "Statement of Pro-Life Principle and Concern." It called for the high court to overturn Roe and urged Congress to pass a constitutional amendment banning all abortions, including those involving rape and incest. The statement claims that "abortion kills 1.5 million innocent human beings in America every year," and mourns the fact that some fathers "watch their children killed against their will" and "learn to their distress only much later that a child they would have raised is dead."
Observed AU's Lynn, "After looking at his record, McConnell starts to make Bork look moderate. This man wants to gut the constitutional protections that Americans count on. He's the wrong man for the job."
Americans United members, said Lynn, should contact their U.S. senators and urge them to vote against the McConnell nomination.
Louisiana Lawmakers Launch 'Anti-Racist' Attack On Theory Of Evolution
The scientific principle of evolution is under full-scale assault in Louisiana, and two legislators who attended universities founded by TV preachers are leading the charge.
On May 1, the Education Committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives voted 9-5 to approve a resolution condemning Charles Darwin as a racist. The measure was introduced by Rep. Sharon Weston Broome (D-Baton Rouge).
Broome, a graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University, charged that Darwin "was the originator for a scientific basis for racism."
Several biology professors testified against the resolution. Joseph Graves Jr., a professor of evolution and African-American studies at Arizona State University, told the panel that passage of the measure would "further widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots in scientific education."
Other biologists noted that it is ironic to brand Darwin as a racist, given his strong anti-slavery views. In his book The Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin wrote about visiting Brazil, a country where slavery was legal at the time. Upon leaving, Darwin wrote, "I thank God I shall never again visit a slave-country."
Critics assert that the Broome resolution is designed to undermine evolution and cast doubt on its validity, an ongoing strategy for advocates of "creation science." In a letter to the Times-Picayune, David Beriss, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Orleans, wrote, "There can be no doubt that [Broome's] real objective is to reject the theory of evolution itself. The linkage of evolutionary theory and racism and the strange focus on Darwin will, despite her protestations to the contrary, make Louisiana the laughingstock of the nation."
Beriss also observed, "It is worth noting that the Bible has been used far more often to justify racism than anything Darwin ever wrote. Perhaps Rep. Broome will introduce a resolution to condemn it next."
Gov. Mike Foster (R) seems to agree. Speaking to reporters in early May, Foster said of the resolution, "The best thing I can say about it is it's weird. I think most people wish that hadn't gotten out of committee." His spokeswoman later added, "It sends the wrong signal to businesses that want to locate here."
On May 8, Broome's resolution reached the floor of the Louisiana House, where Rep. Loulan J. Pitre Jr. (R-Cut Off) offered an amendment removing all references to Darwin. Over Broome's objections, Pitre's amendment was approved on a vote of 65-28. The resolution, now condemning racism only, then passed without objection.
A second anti-evolution measure is also pending in Louisiana. House Bill 1286 would prohibit any state agency, public school or employee from distributing material "which has been proven to be false or fraudulent."
The bill was introduced by Rep. Tony Perkins (R-Baker), a graduate of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. A similar measure was recently defeated in Arkansas. Creationists believe the laws will help them by giving them legal authority to declare evolution "false" and thus ban it from public schools.
House Panel Removes School Vouchers From Education Measure
The House Education Committee voted 27-20 May 2 to strip a school voucher measure from President George W. Bush's education package, a move that makes it unlikely that vouchers will be a part of the final bill.
Right-wing Republicans and Religious Right activists were infuriated by the vote, during which five moderate GOP members joined forces with committee Democrats to remove the provision from H.R. 1. The legislation, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now moves to the full House.
Bush had proposed a federal voucher scheme allowing children in "failing" public schools to receive $1,500 per year for tuition at private schools. The proposal was controversial from the start, and even before the committee showdown Bush seemed to realize his plan didn't have a majority of the votes.
Meeting with reporters May 1, the president said he is pleased that the education bill contains most of the provisions he wanted, but added, "I believe we're going to end up with a whole menu of options with the exception of public money for private schools."
Continued Bush, "There are people that are afraid of choice. I'm a realist. I understand that. It doesn't change my opinion, but it's not going to change the votes either."
Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, a Pennsylvania Republican who serves as the GOP's liaison to the Religious Right, was dismayed about increased funding for the Department of Education. Pitts met with a coalition of Religious Right organizations before the vote and later told The Washington Post, "They were very disappointed, to say the least, and I share their sentiment. The department they were trying to eliminate a few years ago is now about to get a huge increase in funding."
Meanwhile, Bush's Religious Right allies are in revolt about the compromises the president has agreed to. The Family Research Council and 27 other organizations announced May 3 that they oppose the bill as currently drafted. They are demanding that members of Congress restore religious school aid and other items on their agenda to the measure.
'Faith Czar' Calls For Government Funds To Repair Old Churches
John J. DiIulio Jr., the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, says tax money should be used to repair dilapidated houses of worship.
In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer in April, DiIulio noted that a 1995 administrative ruling forbids the National Park Service from using tax funds to repair houses of worship. That regulation, he said, will be reviewed by his office and possibly overturned because it is "unfriendly."
"We don't view it as historic preservation," DiIulio said. "We view it as community use and stewardship."
DiIulio added that many inner-city congregations are strapped for funds. He said President George W. Bush will create a "compassion capital fund" that may pay for "infrastructure improvements."
DiIulio was in Philadelphia to address an organization called Partners for Sacred Places, which seeks to preserve historic houses of worship. During his speech, he charged that the public is "behind the curve in thinking of our older religious properties as civic assets."
DiIulio asserted that neighborhoods around churches tend to be neater and safer. "If those congregations crumble and fail," he asserted, "just try to imagine what it would be like. It's like the old song says, 'You don't know what you got til it's gone.'"
In other news about the "faith-based initiative":
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) has said no thanks to the Bush "faith-based" initiative. The large, Utah-based denomination, which provides social services in many states, says it has no need for direct government funding.
"We're neutral," said Dale Bills, a spokesman for the church. "That's not saying we think it's wrong for every organization, but we just don't need it."
Right-wing opposition to the Bush "faith-based" initiative continues to escalate. Two editors at the conservative National Review magazine have now criticized the Bush proposal. Advancing a conservative argument against the plan, Kate O'Beirne and Ramesh Ponnuru argued in a Wall Street Journal column April 30 that the Bush plan will make houses of worship dependent on the government and expand the welfare state.
"The initiative may well bring a new set of organizations into this network of futility and mutual dependency," O'Beirne and Ponnuru write. "It is no good to say that charities that fear dependency do not have to participate. Nobody has to collect welfare either, but people become dependent on it nonetheless."
A new poll of black clergy shows little enthusiasm for the Bush "faith-based" plan. The survey, conducted by the Rev. Dr. R. Drew Smith of Morehouse College in Atlanta, found that 39 percent of those polled said they strongly oppose the Bush plan. Twenty-one percent said they strongly back it, and the rest were undecided or in the middle.
The Virginia Department of Health has awarded $61,000 to a Baptist group to find ways to improve cardiovascular health among African Americans. The Associated Press reported that the Greater Tidewater Peninsular Baptist Association accepted the grant to draft a plan congregations can follow to improve heart health.
According to the AP, "The Baptist association already has begun compiling a booklet with sermon ideas and Scripture references to exercise and eating right."
Anti-poverty crusader Jonathan Kozol says he's skeptical of the "faith-based" initiative. Kozol recently told The Boston Globe, "I'm opposed to the way the Bush administration is promoting this idea. I do think we ought to have respect for religious organizations. I prefer not to call them 'faith-based' because that's a new, Orwellian euphemism. It means religious. I love and revere the influence religion has on the low-income kids. I think these kids benefit enormously from their faith.... But I do not want to see the line between church and state crossed because if you cross it for a benign little Roman Catholic church like St. Ann's, you can cross it for a white, fundamentalist hate group in Montana."
President Bush Promotes Dobson Prayer Event At White House Ceremony
President George W. Bush used the National Day of Prayer to help promote the Religious Right agenda and further cement his ties with religious conservatives, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
"George W. Bush is president of all the people," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "He should not use his office to promote a narrow religious agenda. He holds the office of president, not national pastor."
In 1952 Congress passed a federal law requiring an annual observance of a national day of prayer. In 1988, at the behest of the Religious Right, the date of the event was officially set by Congress as the first Thursday in May.
Since then, control of the observance, intended to be broadly ecumenical, has been effectively taken over by the Religious Right. The National Day of Prayer Task Force, a nonprofit private group headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Religious Right broadcaster James Dobson, coordinates virtually all of the prayer day events in Washington, D.C., and around the country. The task force budget now tops $1 million, which is raised primarily through donations from foundations and individuals and the sale of NDP merchandise.
The NDP Task Force operates from the headquarters of Dobson's Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo. As expected, the Task Force's events reflect a fundamentalist Christian view of the world and advance the claim that America was founded to be a "Christian nation."
Despite this narrow religious approach, President Bush actively assisted the Dobson crusade. In a May 2 Focus on the Family fax newsletter, White House liaison Tim Goeglin announced that NDP events in Washington, D.C., would be hosted by Bush. In his April 30 NDP proclamation Bush adopted the Task Force theme of "One Nation Under God" as his own. He even quoted from a special prayer written for the Task Force by evangelist Billy Graham.
At a White House ceremony, Shirley Dobson presented Bush with a cowboy-themed religious painting. Bush praised her work and called on Americans to join the prayer day observance.
In addition to the Dobsons, the other 125 guests at the White House event included TV preacher Jerry Falwell and Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt. Other Southern Baptist leaders attending the event included Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and Paul Pressler, a retired judge from Texas who helped engineer the fundamentalist takeover of the denomination.
Americans United's Lynn said the situation is unfortunate. "Americans don't need the president and Congress telling us when to pray," he said. "And we certainly don't need the White House using its bully pulpit to advance the Religious Right's radical game plan."
In other news about the Bush administration:
TV preacher Pat Robertson is celebrating the Religious Right's new access to the White House. Speaking on his "700 Club" program May 2, Robertson remarked, "It's been nearly a decade since conservatives had control of the White House, and now that they have it back, the conservative operatives who have been hanging around Washington for a long time are making the most of their opportunity."
Jay Sekulow, head of Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, is excited about recent changes at the Justice Department. Lauding Attorney General John Ashcroft on his radio program March 8, Sekulow claimed that the department is stacked with "friends of ours." He added, "These are our people that we've worked with. In fact....much of our Supreme Court team, our outside team for the Supreme Court cases, are now inside the Justice Department. And that's a, that's a good thing to know. We're excited about that. Very competent lawyers have been put in place. And look, this is a new day. We need to seize the moment here."
James Dobson's Focus on the Family (FOF) has come up with a novel theory as to why so many political leaders seem to fall prey to sex scandals: Women on Capitol Hill dress too provocatively. FOF's May 2 Citizen Issues Alert quoted Sheila Moloney, a staffer at the Republican Study Committee, who said, "Some of the outfits that women on Capitol Hill wear make them look like cocktail waitresses, and a lot of women throw themselves at congressmen, for various reasons."
Pat Robertson Condones China's Forced Abortion Policy, Angers Right
Anti-abortion activists were infuriated in April when TV preacher Pat Robertson condoned China's policy of forced abortions.
Appearing on the CNN program "Wolf Blitzer Reports" April 17, Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, remarked that the Chinese are "doing what they have to do" to keep the lid on a spiraling population. Robertson, who has repeatedly blasted legal abortion in the United States, said the Chinese policy is necessary because the country's population has topped 1 billion.
Asked by Blitzer to give his thoughts on the forced abortion policy, Robertson replied, "Well, you know I don't agree with it. But at the same time, they've got 1.2 billion people, and they don't know what to do. If every family over there was allowed to have three or four children, the population would be completely unsustainable."
Robertson, who acknowledged that he has business interests in China, went on to say that China suffers from "tremendous unemployment" and is plagued with "antiquated factories" owned by the government that will have to be shut down, spawning more loss of jobs. "And the leadership is like on a teeter-totter board," he said. "They can fall off if the population gets too restive. So, I think that right now they are doing what they have to do. I don't agree with forced abortion, but I don't think the United States needs to interfere with what they're doing internally in this regard."
Blitzer then asked Robertson if he was worried about conservatives accusing him of justifying the Chinese abortion policy. Robertson refused to back down, stating that China is courting "a demographic catastrophe" by aborting more girls than boys. He speculated that in 10 or 20 years Chinese men will have to import wives from Indonesia. This move, he said, "will, in a sense, dilute the what they consider the racial purity of the Han Chinese."
The next day Robertson issued a clarification, saying his remarks "were not spoken with sufficient clarity to communicate my lifelong opposition to voluntary and forced abortion as a means of population control."
Reaction from fellow conservatives was swift. Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council, observed, "I have profound respect for Pat Robertson and all he has done to champion faith and family...but these statements, and the clarification that failed to clarify, are misguided and just plain wrong."
Gary Bauer, former FRC head and frequent critic of China, agreed. "What's clear, even in the clarification," he said, "is that [Robertson] refuses to be critical of the government of China."
In Nebraska, Doug Patton, former head of the Nebraska Christian Coalition, called on Robertson to retire.
Americans United noted that this is not the first time Robertson has justified repressive policies in China in order to advance his business interests. In September of 1998, Robertson traveled to China where he met with top government officials and praised religious freedom in the country.
Other conservative leaders were criticizing China for persecuting Christians and forcing them underground, but Robertson said he believes the country respects religious freedom. At the time, Robertson's U.S. Media Corporation was involved in a business deal with the Chinese government to produce children's television programming. The TV preacher reportedly is a major investor in Zhaodaola, a Chinese internet concern that Robertson hopes will become "the Yahoo! of China."
Former FRC head Bauer said business interest in China is swaying political opinion in this country. "It turns some American capitalists and, in some cases, even some religious leaders, into apologists for an odious regime," Bauer told U.S. News & World Report.
In other news about the Christian Coalition:
The Christian Coalition's "Road to Victory" Conference has been cancelled this year, according to The Washington Times.
The Coalition usually holds the annual event in Washington, D.C. In peak years, attendance topped 4,000. Last year, it was down to about 1,200. The conference was usually held at the Washington Hilton Hotel, but the Coalition owed the facility $84,148 from last year's conference and on March 13 hotel managers told the group that it could not use the hotel in 2001 unless the overdue bill was paid by March 20. Hilton officials said a check for the full amount did eventually arrive, but not until April 23.
In lieu of the conference, the Coalition says it will hold political organizing sessions in 21 states. Roberta Combs, executive director of the group, told The Times the decision to cancel the conference had nothing to do with the billing dispute with the Hilton.
The paper also reported that the Coalition's budget has plummeted from $13 million in 1998 to about $3 million in 1999.
Ironically, as the Coalition spirals downward, its former director, Ralph Reed, is a rising star in the Republican Party. Reed, who ran the Robertson group from 1990-97, was recently elected chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.
During his tenure at the Christian Coalition, Reed always claimed that the organization and its work were nonpartisan. After leaving the Coalition post, however, he opened a political consulting firm in Atlanta that worked on behalf of Republican candidates, including President George W. Bush.
Democratic leaders in the state promised to make the most of Reed's tenure. "Georgia Democrats are going to be very aggressive in pointing out Ralph Reed's...politics," said David Worley, chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party. "I think Ralph Reed's election sends a strong signal that middle-of-the-road voters have no place in the Georgia Republican Party, and that's going to benefit us in the election."
Weyrich Accused Of Anti-Semitism For Saying Jews Killed Jesus
Religious Right leader Paul Weyrich was accused of anti-Semitism in April after he circulated a commentary piece asserting that the Jews were responsible for Jesus' death.
In the April 13 article, "Indeed He Is Risen!," Weyrich writes, "Our God could not bear to see mankind suffering, even if it was from the consequences of his own actions, so He sent his only Son to become man so that man could become like God. To accomplish that, Christ was crucified by the Jews who had wanted a temporal ruler to rescue them from the oppressive Roman authorities. Instead God sent them a spiritual leader to rescue them from their sins and despite the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, performed incredible miracles, even raised people from the dead, He was not what the Jews had expected, so they considered Him a threat. Thus He was put to death."
Weyrich's comments drew a strong response from writer Evan Gahr, whose articles appear in a number of right-wing publications. Gahr attacked Weyrich in the American Spectator and then, in an interview with The Washington Post, called Weyrich a "demented anti-Semite."
But some conservatives rushed to Weyrich's defense, insisting that what he wrote is consistent with the New Testament and not anti-Semitic. David Horowitz, who edits a far-right magazine called FrontPage where Gahr was a regular contributor, told Gahr he would publish no more of his columns and insisted that he apologize to Weyrich.
Weyrich, a member of an Eastern-Rite Roman Catholic Church, is a longtime Washington strategist with the Religious Right. In the late 1970s, he helped conceive and launch Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority.
In other news about religion and politics:
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has refused to condemn a professional basketball player who made anti-Semitic comments in late April. Charlie Ward, a guard with the New York Knicks, is a former player at Florida State University who serves as a spokesman for a state program that encourages parents to read to their children. In an interview with The New York Times Magazine, Ward said Jews have "blood on their hands" for killing Christ. He called Jews "stubborn" for not accepting Christ and asserted that Christians are "persecuted by Jews every day."
Bush refused to criticize Ward, saying, "I don't necessarily ascribe to the same biblical interpretation as others, but I do believe we need to have tolerance on both sides. I wouldn't necessarily...conclude what he concluded, but he has every right to do that."
When asked if Ward is still a good role model, Bush replied, "Absolutely, absolutely."
Catholic voters are being targeted by the Republican Party. The Associated Press reported that GOP strategists will work in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, which have large Catholic populations, to build networks of Catholic "team leaders." According to the AP, the team leaders "are asked to participate in conference calls with policy-makers, provide the e-mail addresses of 10 fellow Republicans, call local talk-radio programs, recruit additional 'team leaders' and forward Republican e-mails to five of their friends."
Catholics are considered a crucial swing voting bloc. President Bill Clinton won the majority of the Catholic vote in 1992 and 1996, but President George W. Bush and Al Gore essentially split it in the 2000 election.
Religious Right leaders in Florida are rallying around a state legislator who harangued a group of gay high school and college students when they came to visit him in April. State Rep. Allen Trovillion (R-Winter Park) reportedly told the students "God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and he is going to destroy you and a lot of others....You are going to cause the downfall of this country, which was built on Christian principles."
The students had traveled to Tallahassee to meet with lawmakers as part of a lobbying day sponsored by a group called Equity Florida to press for a law banning harassment of gay students in public schools.
Americans United Protests Construction Of Chapel In Ky. Public School
Education officials in Harlan County, Ky., should immediately remove a chapel constructed inside a public school, say attorneys with Americans United.
The chapel opened in early April after Don Disney, a retired coal miner, pitched a proposal to create it to Principal Edward Clem. Disney, who serves as chair of the local parents' council, won approval from that body and then solicited area businesses to pay for the furnishings.
The chapel is housed in a 9-by-12 former storage closet. It includes a pulpit, an altar and pews adorned with crosses. The Lord's Prayer was posted on the wall alongside figures of angels. The chapel was dedicated to God during a ceremony attended by clergy and students.
About two weeks after the chapel opened, school officials temporarily closed it and removed the prayer from the wall. Johnnie L. Turner, the school board attorney, said he believes the room is now constitutional.
"I did a quick inspection, and the only thing I was aware of that would cause a problem is the biblical verse," Turner told the Louisville Courier-Journal. He asserted that the crosses could be the letter T and called their presence in the room "a grayish area. It depends on how you look at them." Turner also called the pews "benches" and said the altar was a "podium."
On May 2 Americans United attorneys sent a letter to Harlan County education officials, advising them that chapel is unconstitutional. "The room violates the Constitution because it endorses religion," wrote AU attorney Margaret F. Garrett. "The room contains church pews, which are adorned with crosses, altars and a display of the Lord's Prayer. These furnishings, symbols and holy structures create the atmosphere of a Christian church and send the message that the school prefers Christianity to other religions and to non-religion. As a result, the existence of the room is unconstitutional."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky has voiced similar concerns. The ACLU is already involved in litigation in Harlan County, contesting the display of the Ten Commandments at the courthouse.
Americans United Seeks Reports About Abuses Of 'Charitable Choice'
Attorneys with Americans United are looking for any information about possible constitutional violations in government programs that involve "charitable choice."
First adopted in 1996 as part of a welfare reform act, "charitable choice" allows religious organizations to use tax money to provide various types of social services. Although implementation has been limited in its scope, the concept will be expanded dramatically if President George W. Bush's "faith-based initiative" becomes law.
AU attorneys have been researching "charitable choice" for the past few years and are now interested in talking with people who may have had experiences with it in the states.
Anyone with information like this is urged to contact Americans United via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail relevant material to Alex Luchenitser, Americans United, 518 C St., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.