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Humanists Ask Iowa to "Stand Firm"

March 24, 2008

 

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC), legal arm of the American Humanist Association, sent a letter today to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services urging Iowa to stand firm in the face of a legal challenge brought by the Association of Faith-Based Organizations (AFBO). AFBO sued the Iowa department to challenge a state regulation that excludes organizations engaged in sectarian activities from participating in Iowa's One Gift Campaign, in which the government provides resources to aid in transferring voluntary employee contributions to a recipient.

"The government should not lend its resources to help transfer money to groups that may use the funds to proselytize or discriminate on the basis of religion, even if those funds come from an voluntary source," commented Bob Ritter, legal coordinator of AHLC. "The American Humanist Association strongly supports the Iowa regulation which upholds the American principle of separation of church and state."

The letter, sent via e-mail and U.S. mail, is below.


March 24, 2008


Mollie Anderson
Director
Iowa Dept. of Administrative Services
Hoover State Office Building
1305 East Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319


Lawsuit:  Association of Faith-Based Organizations v. Anderson (Filed in U.S. District Court on 3/19/08)


Dear Ms. Anderson:

In my daily search of religious liberty news, I came across a lawsuit brought the by Association of Faith-Based Organizations (“AFBO”) against you, challenging Iowa’s regulation that excludes sectarian organizations from participating in Iowa’s One Gift Campaign.

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association (AHA) takes a special interest in this lawsuit, inasmuch as, like the state of Iowa, the AHA strongly supports the principle of separation of church and state found in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

The Alliance Defense Fund and Christian Legal Society, which are providing attorneys for AFBO, allege that the regulations – Iowa Admin. Code § 11-76(1)(f), which excludes agencies engaged in sectarian activities from participating in the One Gift Campaign, and § 11-76(1)(h), which excludes organizations that discriminate in employment and the delivery of services based on religion, race or otherwise – violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

I respectfully suggest otherwise.  In Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712 (2004), the U.S. Supreme Court, in holding that the state of Washington did not violate the U.S. Constitution in denying a scholarship to a student majoring in devotional theology, found that the state had discretion to adopt more stringent anti-establishment provisions than demanded by the First Amendment.

While under the Locke decision, Iowa is not required to use taxpayer resources to administer its One Gift Campaign in the manner contemplated by AFBO, it would appear that the use of taxpayer funds to facilitate a One Gift Campaign that permits employees’ contributions to go to sectarian activities would violate Article I, Section 3, of Iowa’s constitution.  Section 3 provides, in part, “… nor shall any person be compelled to pay … taxes or other rates … for building or repairing places of worship, or the maintenance of any minister, or ministry.”

In short, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center is of the opinion that the referenced Iowa regulations concerning the state’s One Gift Campaign are valid and that the state of Iowa should stand firm against AFBO’s challenge.


                                                                       

Sincerely,

                                                                       

Robert V.  Ritter
Legal Coordinator


Cc:  Patricia Lantz
Legal Counsel, Dept. of Admin. Services


 

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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

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