Magazine article Church & State

Stop Giving Tax Aid to Churches, AU Tells Mass. Officials

Magazine article Church & State

Stop Giving Tax Aid to Churches, AU Tells Mass. Officials

Article excerpt

Americans United has warned officials in Massachusetts that they must stop allowing communities to use taxpayer money to renovate houses of worship.

Earlier this year, Americans United received several complaints that certain Massachusetts municipalities were using funds under a law called the Community Preservation Act to repair churches. This practice, Americans United asserted, violates both the U.S. and Massachusetts constitutions.

"Houses of worship should be supported by the men and women sitting in the pews, not the taxpayers," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "Coerced support for religion goes against basic constitutional principles."

Ron Madnick, president of Americans United's Massachusetts Chapter, agreed.

"In America," Madnick observed, "everyone is free to contribute to the house of worship of their choice or to decline to support them at all. Massachusetts officials shouldn't presume to make that decision for us."

In a letter to officials at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser cited several examples of tax money being awarded to houses of worship.

Among them were the First Parish Church of Cohasset, which received $65,000 to restore its windows, and three churches in Monson--one Catholic, one Methodist and one Unitarian Universalist--which received grants totaling $317,000 for things such as steeple renovations, interior work and repair of structural damage. …

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