Subj: Living in a Theocracy What is it like to live in a theocracy? It was time to elect m

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From: Charles Sumner 10 Sep 94 14:04 Subj: Living in a Theocracy What is it like to live in a theocracy? It was time to elect members of the public school board. The religious leader named enough candidates to fill the board. Another person of the same religious group announced he was running for a seat. The religious leader objected. The maverick was told he was no longer welcome to attend religious services where he was a member. His son was expelled from the religious school. A crowd of several hundred of his fellow religionists marched to his home, calling for his death and throwing rocks through the windows. His tires were slashed. Does this sound like Iran? Maybe Northern Ireland? No, this was in Orange County, New York, in the village of Kiryas Joel, in 1990. The town had permitted the Satmar Hasidic Jewish community (an ultra-orthodox group) to draw village lines to encompass just its members. This had been requested so that the Satmar could avoid obeying town zoning ordinances. Years of wrangling occurred over the Satmar's demands for religiously segregated education. Then the Legislature of the State of New York created a special school district with the same boundaries as the village and began funding a public school for children with disabilities, a school established for religious purposes. A foot in the door. The New York State School Boards Association took the case through four courts over a period of about five years. Kiryas Joel lost in every court. The State of New York sided with the Satmar and spent your tax money defending an indefensible establishment of religion. Even after the Supreme Court decision in June, legislative leaders collaborated and drew up legislation designed so that only this village could meet the requirements. It was railroaded through the legislature at 5 a.m. on the last day of the session. Governor Cuomo signed it over the protests of civil libertarians. What this does is start the entire legal process over again, with your tax money again being used to defend special legislation for a religious group. Will what was illegal suddenly become legal now that the State has done the same thing by indirection? How can a legislature which cannot come up with a budget on time in ten years and which cannot deal adequately with major legislation afford to be drawing up legislation for special interests? The case has more significance that, however. Religious Right groups joined the State of New York to try to obtain a precedent so that they too could get public money for their religious education. They hope to open a crack in the wall of separation and allow a trickle which will eventually widen to a flood and leave certain religious groups with more funds with which to seek members and power. This will place other religious groups at a disadvantage and may force them to also seek public funds. Why else would the following groups have so much interest in approving this legislation? Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Christian Legal Society, National Association of Evangelicals, James Dobson's Family Research Council, Southern Center for Law and Ethics, Christian Life Commission (political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention,) U.S. Catholic Conference, Cardinal John O'Connor and the Archdiocese of New York, Knights of Columbus, Rutherford Institute. We need to support groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which drew up an amicus brief and was joined by five other organizations to oppose Kiryas Joel and the State of New York. We need people who will stand for religious liberty and equality for all before the law.


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