To the editor:
I'm generally pretty glad I'm not poor, but I'm really, really glad I'm not poor in the neighborhood of the Employment Resource Center (Neighborhood News, May 28), because if I were, and if I were interested in maybe getting a job or some training from this city-funded agency, I'd have to put up with someone's telling me to go talk to God at Saint Sabina Church. And since I'm a Jew, I would find this offensive and have to go on my way without the job help I'd come looking for.
Religious groups should, of course, feel perfectly free to be offensive on their own time and dime--that's the meaning of the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment--but they should not feel free to do so in the course of providing services paid for with my tax dollars. That is the meaning of the amendment's establishment clause. In the United States, the government doesn't get to prescribe the discipline of religion to me--even if I'm poor.
The "faith-based" social-services movement--which is nothing more than an effort to dump society's responsibility for poor people onto the churches--will eventually topple of its own contradictions, but those of us who care about religious liberty should help to push it over as soon as possible. In that spirit, I'm copying this letter to the office of the corporation counsel with a request that they investigate the use being made of public money in a parochial cause.