September 12, 2007
Today the American Humanist Association drew attention to pork barrel funding for a sectarian religious organization found in the Senate version of the $106 billion transportation and housing bill. Though the overall purpose of the bill is to appropriate funds to develop and repair the nation’s bridges, highways and airports, support Amtrak and provide grants for economic and housing development, the legislation features numerous home-state projects. One of these originates with Senator Sam Brownback, R-Kan. and allocates $850,000 for renovating the Morning Star Ranch in Florence, Kansas.
According to the Morning Star Ranch website at http://www.worldimpact.org/ministries/camps/msr.php the ranch belongs to World Impact, an evangelical Christian mission organization, and is primarily used for the group’s “Christian Leadership Training Program,” a two-year program for “single, urban young men, ages 18-25, who have made a commitment to Christ.” The facilities are also “available to other Christian groups.”
“In other words, no Jews need apply,” said American Humanist Association President Mel Lipman, “nor any other non-Christians, including humanists. This is a clear and outrageous violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
“The First Amendment specifically prohibits Congress from this kind of government entanglement with religion,” added Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “This isn’t an example of the president using his discretionary funds to support his pet faith-based projects. Though we stand firmly in opposition to the executive branch misusing public funds in this way, what we see now is a new and disturbing development with the Senate permitting such unconstitutional religious favoritism and political pandering.”
AHA President Mel Lipman concluded: “Congress hasn’t passed any laws that would have explicitly funded Bush’s faith-based initiatives, but this bill would step over that line. We humanists were hopeful that the recent changes in Congress would have solidified its stance in support of Jefferson’s Wall of church-state separation, but now we’re seeing Congress taking the first step toward its own faith-based initiative. As there’s still a chance for this bad decision to be righted by the Senate or in the committee that reconciles the House and Senate bills we’ll be watching the result closely. This will be a test as to whether an election-year Senate has become all too willing to initiate legislation with a sectarian religious bias.”
The bill now under consideration is H.R. 3074, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008.
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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) is the oldest and largest Humanist organization in the nation. The AHA is dedicated to ensuring a voice for those with a positive outlook, based on reason and experience, which embraces all of humanity.