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Press ReleaseReligious Freedom/Church-State
ADL Says Plan to Direct Tax Funds to Church Construction 'Patently Unconstitutional'

New York, NY, January 27, 2003 ... Calling the Administration’s plan to subsidize construction at churches and other houses of worship using federal community development grants, “patently unconstitutional” and a “serious breach of the church-state wall,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today urged the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to reconsider its proposal.

“The HUD plan is patently unconstitutional and reaffirms our concern that faith-based programs will erode the church-state wall,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “If implemented, taxpayer funds would be directly funneled into construction of church facilities, in what would constitute a most serious breach of the separation of church and state.”

In a letter to Housing Secretary Mel Martinez, ADL outlined its concerns why the Proposed Rule issued on January 6 would “inevitably result in very broad and unconstitutional entanglements between government and religion to an extent never seen before.” The League also will be filing formal comments on the Proposed Rule. Among the specific concerns outlined in the letter:

  • Allowing HUD and religious organizations to split the cost of building a facility (yet barring the use of such a facility for religious activity) will cause HUD and the religious organization to enter into what is, at best, unseemly negotiations as to what counts as religious activity or not. Moreover, it raises the deeply disturbing specter of HUD monitoring such religious organizations for compliance.

  • The idea of shared-cost facilities is patently unconstitutional direct aid to pervasively religious institutions. The Supreme Court’s recent voucher decision does not change this analysis as there is none of the independent private choice so central to Zelman v. Harris-Simmons.

  • The issue of enforcement of the separation between religion and government funds is not adequately addressed in the Proposed Rule. The Proposed Rule raises many very difficult questions: Will HUD remove structures from offending institutions? Will it place liens on houses of worship if they fail to adequately comply? What happens to the structures built with government funds when secular programs cease, but the institution wants to continue to utilize it for religious purposes?

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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