Calif. Missions Should Not Tap Taxpayers for Funds, Lynn Tells Senate Panel

Article excerpt

Americans United for Separation o Church and State has urged a U.S. Senate panel to reject a plan to allocate $10 million in federal funds for mission churches in California.

AU Executive Director Barry W Lynn testified during a March 9 hearing focused on the California Mission Preservation Act (S. 1306), a measure that would earmark public funds for the repair and upkeep of 21 Roman Catholic mission churches and their associated religious artworks and artifacts.

In testimony before the Senate Sub committee on National Parks, Lynn said federal aid to religion violates the Firs Amendment of the U.S. Constitution Houses of worship, he said, must be sup ported by voluntary giving, not government subsidies.

Lynn noted that 19 of the 21 church are still owned by the Catholic Church and provide mass and other religious services for active parishes.

"Preservation of historic buildings is important, but preservation of the constitutional right to religious liberty is vital," said Lynn. "These missions are houses of worship; they are not simply museums Funds to fix the ceilings and window and to revitalize the religious icons on the walls must come from their congregants or from the tens of thousands o yearly visitors and from America's charitable foundations. I believe that the people of California and tourists from around the nation can preserve these mission buildings without passing the collection plate to Uncle Sam."

Lynn insisted that the cost of church maintenance has long been regarded as the responsibility of individual donors not the government. He noted that James Madison, the Father of the Constitution vetoed a congressional appropriation of a small parcel of land to a Baptist church in Mississippi.

Lynn pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court on at least three occasions has ruled against the use of direct public funding to maintain churches and church schools.

Concluded Lynn, "The history of religion in America is a story of voluntary giving, not a chronicle of government subsidy. …