Sunday, January 23, 2011

Donations OK, but Not to Churches?

In Polk Country, Florida, the Sheriff's department is in the news. They are donating no-longer-needed basketball equipment to eight local churches. But the Atheists of  Florida are complaining because they say that government money is supporting churches.

The Sheriff's motive appears to have been directed at the best use of the equipment. They are particularly concerned with providing a place for teens to assemble productively - the "get them off the streets" in other words. This is a common goal of law enforcement and community groups. The equipment will be outside, rather than behind locked doors.

Suppose the department had donated the equipment to the parks department or to a non-religious community group. Would there have been a complaint then? I personally believe there would not have been the same reaction. Would it be OK if these tax-provided leftovers were donated to any group except a religious group? That seems like reverse discrimination to me. Once again the so-called "separation of church and state" was invoked by the group complaining. Is this action the same as a body of law establishing an official religion? That is what "separation of church and state" intended to address, if one stops to read the First Amendment of our Constitution.

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