The purpose of Our Conscience weblog is to facilitate a greater discussion and understanding of church and state separation in our community and in others. Underlying this is the value that each individual should be allowed to follow the dictates of his or her own conscience without influence, coercion, or direction from the State when it comes to matters of religion.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Americans United for Separation of Church and State's Letter to President-Elect Obama

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations on your recent victory. You are assuming the leadership of our nation at a challenging time, and we are sure there are many people and organizations competing for your attention.

As you prepare to assume office, we would like you to consider the importance of separation of church and state. This principle, enshrined in our First Amendment, is the platform upon which our religious liberty rests. We believe it is vitally important that it not be eroded.

We hope you will show leadership in supporting the separation of church and state. There are several key issues your administration may confront in the coming years. These include:

* ‘Faith-based’ funding of religion: we find it alarming that our nation seems to be moving away from the idea that religion is best supported by individual contributions made voluntarily. Instead, “faith-based” initiatives to fund churches and other ministries with taxpayer dollars are increasingly common. We urge you to oppose such measures.
* Voucher subsidies for religious schools: A federally funded voucher program is currently subsidizing religious and other private schools in the District of Columbia. Voucher programs have been proposed for other states and cities, as well. We urge you to oppose government subsidies for religious education and focus on improving our public schools.
* The composition of the Supreme Court: The Supreme Court wields enormous influence over how the First Amendment is interpreted and applied. If you are faced with vacancies on the high court, we hope you will take into account any potential nominee’s views on church-state separation and the role it plays in defending our liberties.
* Church electioneering: Currently, federal tax law prohibits houses of worship and other tax-exempt groups from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. Polls show overwhelming support for this concept. Yet proposals have been introduced in Congress to alter the regulation or do away with it altogether. We urge you to use the power of your “bully pulpit” to oppose such misguided legislation.

These are just some of the church-state issues you might face. We hope you will use your time in office to unite Americans on the need to support the separation of church and state.

Thank you for your time.


The Staff and Membership of Americans United