Reckless ruling blows a huge hole in the wall between church and state: Opposing view
In America, houses of worship should continue to pay their own way.
Religious institutions in this country have traditionally relied on voluntary support, not taxpayer funds, to grow and prosper. This system has worked well for us. Religion in America has thrived under this voluntary principle.
Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer is starkly at odds with that great tradition. By asserting that houses of worship have a legal right to public funds in some cases, the high court has imposed a modern-day version of a church tax on all of us.
Americans should have the right to support only the religious groups of their choosing. As James Madison, the father of the Constitution and author of the Bill of Rights, once observed, compelling someone to pay even “three pence” to support another person’s religion is too much. The court has thrown open a door that should have remained tightly shut.
Some have argued that the type of aid the Missouri church sought is akin to fire and police services. The comparison does not survive close scrutiny. A burning building presents a grave threat to all, and using a tax-funded fire department to extinguish it is common sense. Trinity Lutheran, by contrast, wanted to spruce up its facilities. Instead of asking its members to foot the bill, it turned to the taxpayers.
Lots of churches could use an upgrade. They might have old furnaces or sagging roofs. Are taxpayers now expected to fund these improvements as well? After all, the roof might collapse and harm someone.
In many European nations, religion is devitalized because people choose not to support churches that the government is propping up. Our Founders rejected that system, but the Supreme Court has now endorsed it.
The Founders got it right: Forcing someone to “help” religion against his or her will is an affront to the right of conscience. Our churches will pay the consequences for this reckless decision to blow a huge hole in the wall between church and state.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn is executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
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