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Wall of Separation

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 04, 2003

Amy Welborn points us to Terry Eastland's interesting article in the Weekly Standard. Some of our fellow citizens are appalled that federal funds have been allocated toward the upkeep of a building in which (gulp) prayer takes place:

Interior Secretary Gale Norton recently announced a grant of $317,000 to help preserve an aging edifice of historical importance to the nation. Whereupon Americans United for the Separation of Church and State objected. Why? Because the group sees a manifest violation of church and state in the new policy under which the Park Service made the grant.

The edifice happens to be Boston's Old North Church, where Paul Revere got the signal that the British were advancing. And the Old North Church still is--as a horrified Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United, told reporters--"an active church."

This puts one in mind of the halcyon days of the National Endowment for the Arts, when your tax dollars went to support Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" -- a crucifix floating in a plexiglas box filled with the artist's, ahem, contribution to western civilization. Objectors were successfully overruled on the grounds of the needful separation of church and state rooted in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. This provoked Joseph Sobran to propose what he termed the "Urine Test" for First Amendment interpretation.

It works like this. If an artist creates a religious object -- say, a nativity scene or a painting of the Virgin -- it violates the First Amendment to pay for it with public monies. But if the artist soaks the same object in urine, it violates the First Amendment not to pay for it with public monies. Clear, I trust?

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