Americans United has issued a warning about a plan by FEMA to use taxpayer money to rebuild religious schools damaged or destroyed by hurricane Katrina.
James Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, told reporters yesterday that using public funds to rebuild religious facilities is permissible as long as no money goes directly to subsidize buildings used primarily for religious purposes.
Would Towey have us believe that there are certain parts of a religious school that are not "primarily religious?" Is FEMA only going to rebuild the bathrooms?
I went to a private Catholic school and, outside of the driveway and parking lot, I seem to recall crucifixes in every classroom, Bibles everywhere, and "Hail Marys" said in every classroom before and after class. The funny thing was that these classes were also filled with non-Catholics like me. It was a Catholic school in Tokyo, Japan run by the Christian Brothers of Canada (Trois Rivieres). We had 48 countries and 20 differetn religions represented in the school. The Lord's Prayer and three Hail Marys were recited before each class. To be fair, the non-Catholics were not "required" to say these prayers, but after a while, boredom took hold and everyone joined in. I, an Episcopalian, always found it amusing and odd that some of my Jewish, Muslim and Shinto classmates were saying Hail Marys.
The fact is, whether it's a Catholic school or a Protestant evangelical school, religious worship and religious content are woven in to the very fabric of classroom subjects and discussions. It is inescapable. That the Bush administration would split hairs on which parts of the school are religious and which are not is the highest level of political legerdemain and dissimulation.
The bottom line is that what FEMA is attempting to do is circumvent what is flat-out a violation of the Constitution of the United States.