Grotesque Anatomy
Friday, December 05, 2003
  Of Course, My Tune Will Change Once I Start My Own Religion...
Because Mr. Intermittent doesn't have a comments system, I'll respond to his remarks here.

I never said that not supporting something wouldn't make it harder for that thing to exist.  In fact, I think it's pretty obvious that withholding support will make matters more difficult than providing support would.  My point was simply that it's not the same as actively restricting something, which is all the Constitution prohibits with respect to religion.

The distinction might be easier to see if we look at another example not involving religion:  Simply because the government doesn't give me money to write my blog full-time doesn't mean it's restricting my right to free speech.  Sure, it makes it harder for me to share my wonderful insights with the world, but I don't think the government has to underwrite my speech in order to make it unrestricted.  Now if the government started censoring certain entries or shut down my blog, then I might start objecting about my speech being restricted.

As for whether the state should provide fire protection or sewer service for churches, Lithwick's article contains a passage which addresses the former concern:
Scalia wonders if the state can "decline to provide fire protection for churches and synagogues." Souter answers for Pierce: "Washington's position is that it will put out a fire in a church, but it won't spend money ensuring that people will go inside a church."
I agree with this.  I assume most church members pay taxes that support the local fire department, so I see no reason why they should be denied this basic service once they enter a certain structure.  I don't know how sewer service works in other cities, but I pay for it along with my water bill, so I assume churches would pay for that service on their own.  Back when I still went to church, I remember notices in the bulletin outlaying their expenses, which included utilities such as heating and electricity.  I assume sewer services fell under this category as well:  Services the church needed to pay for itself, hopefully covered by the contributions of its members.  And this is how I think it should be:  I don't think the state should refuse to provide basic services to religious organizations, but I also don't think those groups should get those services for free.  The Constitution only guarantees the right to express one's faith; it doesn't guarantee the right to do so in a elaborate building with enormous upkeep costs.
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