Atheists Blast Faith-Based Initiative as an Unconstitutional `Religion Tax'

By Rahe, Emily | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 11, 2001 | Go to article overview

Atheists Blast Faith-Based Initiative as an Unconstitutional `Religion Tax'


Rahe, Emily, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Emily Rahe

Atheist and other secularist groups announced plans yesterday to flood Congress on July 17 with e-mail, letters and telephone calls against President Bush's faith-based initiative.

"The Day That Counts" initiative, led by Madalyn Murray O'Hair's former group American Atheists, encourages nonreligious citizens to contact members of Congress to oppose what the groups deem to be a "religion tax" imposed on Americans.

The groups have an array of complaints against the initiative, but collectively agree that it is unjust and a violation of the First Amendment clause barring the establishment of religion.

"Justice and logic and history and religious freedom and our Constitution all make it clear that it is simply wrong to take money away from people with no religion and use it to pay for advancing any religion," Ed Buckner, the executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, said at a news conference yesterday at the National Press Club. "No tax support of religion can be justified. Not now, not ever."

Added Jeff Dee of the Atheist Community of Austin: "It is wrong because it gives your tax dollars to groups whose stated goal is to convert your children, your friends, and your neighbors to religious viewpoints which may oppose your own.

"Of course those groups are free to try and persuade others to agree with them, but the government is not free to give them your tax dollars to help them do it," Mr. Dee said.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Tony P. Hall, Ohio Democrat and primary co-sponsor of the House version of Mr. Bush's plan, called such opposition to the proposal on church-state grounds unfounded.

Rep. J.C. Watts, Oklahoma Republican and the principal author of the bill, "took great pains to ensure that this does not violate the Constitution in any way," said Deborah De Young, a special assistant to Mr. …

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