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As many of you remember, almost a year ago, President Obama created the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Even though he promised while he was campaigning for

You probably know that national Americans United has been looking into the use of Federal money for constitutionally suspect “earmarks” which are directing tax dollars to a string of religious organizations. Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the merit-based or competitive allocation processes is circumvented by specifying the location or recipient.

You may not know that we have our own earmarks in New York State. We call them “legislative initiatives,” “community projects” or “member items.”  Our chapter has begun to look into our very own earmarks to see if any of them are also constitutionally suspect.  See below for constitutional requirements and what makes a grant “suspect.”

New York’s legislative initiatives are listed on the websites of the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate.  Each item lists the name of the organization receiving the funds, the purpose of the grant, the amount, the state agency administering the grant and the legislator who requested it (the member whose item it is).  To see these lists for the State Assembly: SFY 2008-09 Legislative Initiatives.  This list is in alphabetical order within each administering state agency. To see the list for the State Senate, Community Projects Fund SFY 2008-09.  This list is in alphabetical order by the receiving organization’s name.

Constitutional Requirements

The constitution prohibits the use of public funds for religious purposes or to be given to groups that discriminate on the basis of religion among service reciepients. In addition, these funds may not go to organizations that are pervasively sectarian institutions. An institution is pervasively sectarian if its secular activities cannot be separated from its sectarian ones or if a substantial portion of its functions are subsumed in the religious mission.

During this year, we will be looking into the groups who are receiving the funds and the purposes for which the funds have been given.  We will be particularly looking into groups that receive funds who are pervasively sectarian.

You can help:

  • Take a look at the lists
  • Pay particular attention to items requested by your state senator or assemblyman
  • Let us know if you find any constitutionally suspect

Send us an email: info@au-nyc.org

Gov. David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada.

Governor Paterson will have many opponents to his directive to state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside New York. The New York Times reported that an Arizona-based conservative Christian group is planning to sue the Governor and that Senate Republicans were trying to decide how to respond to the Governor’s directive.

This is an issue of state-church separation. Opponents of church-state separation, led by the Religious Right, extol the “traditional” family of a married couple with children. While many American families fit this mold, others do not. All loving families, regardless of their composition, deserve support from government and society. The government must not deny adoption, child custody and other fundamental rights to families labeled “non-traditional” because of religious bias or narrow interpretations of holy books held by certain religious believers. The government must also recognize that while many couples choose to be married in a house of worship, marriage itself is ultimately a civil institution; access to it should not be defined or limited because of religious strictures.

The Governor needs to hear from New Yorkers. Please click here to send an email to the Governor and thank him for his directive. Let him know that you see this issue, not only one of rights for all people, but one of church-state separation.