Southern Brooklyn

Nadler Faces Heat From Jewish Groups For Trying To Separate Church And State


Representative Jerrold Nadler is facing some criticism from Jewish groups today over his stance on the recent Congressional legislation that allowed for FEMA money to be spent on the repair and rebuilding of synagogues, churches and other religious houses of worship damaged by Superstorm Sandy, according to an editorial by the Jewish Press.

Yesterday, we reported that the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve the use of federal funds to help Sandy-stricken houses of worship of all faiths. The passing of the act is likely to face some friction in the Senate and the courts as it brings up important questions regarding separation of church and state.

Nadler was a vocal leader of the opposition to this bill, arguing that the use of taxpayer money to fund the reconstruction of religious buildings was unconstitutional. His stance did not go unnoticed by the Jewish Press, arguing that the legislation made “common sense.”

If Congress decides that it is in the public interest to bring about large-scale restorations, such as roof and sidewall repair, by what logic can one exclude religious institutions that are in exactly the same position as non-religious entities? After all, religious institutions are entitled to, for example, police and fire protection just like their non-religious counterparts.

While Nadler was on the receiving end of criticism, other politicians, who have been pushing for the bill, like Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz were pleased with its passage in the House, reaching out to his Facebook followers with this message.

 Yesterday the House of Representatives passed the “Federal Disaster Assistance Non-Profit Fairness Act of 2013,” which would allow houses of worship to be included among the non-profit recipients of FEMA relief aid. I’ve been working on this issue with the Jewish Community Relations Council of NY and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to help synagogues and churches apply for FEMA. Houses of worship impact our entire community and desperately need a helping hand to get back on their feet.


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  1. From a story in the Huffington Post today about churches trying to fend off sexual abuse cases using First Amendment defense:

    “The First Amendment argument, advanced by some legal scholars, derives from a belief that churches ought to be considered autonomous, self-governing institutions whose internal decision-making is off-limits to secular courts. Religious institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church, have invoked the Constitution in arguing that they shouldn’t be liable for the hiring or supervision of a priest facing abuse allegations.”

    Now, if there’s no evidence of church officials trying to cover-up one of their priest’s conduct, I would agree that the church should not be held liable for what the priest does, not based on the First Amendment but simply because there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

    So we should have separation of church and state when the religious institution is to be subjected to the law of the land but we should forget all that when there’s an opportunity for the religious institutions to avail themselves of taxpayer money? I saw “BRAVO” to Mr. Nadler for actually having principles, a rare quality indeed in our elected representatives.

  2. Three of these things are violations of the Establishment Clause. Three of these things are kind of the same. One of these things is not like the others. Did you guess which thing just doesn’t belong?

    1) A 200-foot liquor-license-free-zone not around your house or mine, just surrounding a house of worship
    2) A 500-foot amplified-music-exclusion-zone not around your house or mine, just surrounding a house of worship
    3) Allowing the construction of one religion’s house of worship while barring the construction of another religion’s house of worship
    4) Lending rebuilding assistance to every building in a disaster zone whether it is a house of worship or not

  3. Every building? You mean like grocery stores, liquor stores, pizzerias, sandwich shops, beauty parlors, restaurants and so many other small businesses whose proprietors are at risk of losing their livelihoods and because they are self-employed cannot receive unemployment payments? They don’t get money from FEMA. They can get loans but they are not given money outright. Your choice of the word “lending” is also interesting because houses of worship have in the past been able to get loans from FEMA. Loans are one thing. Direct payments with no requirement to repay is another.

  4. I see exactly what you are talking about. It’s number 3. But that is another issue. I don’t see the relation here.

    Barbara is right lending is different than giving.

    I never understood what is meant by the separation of church and state. It seems to mean different things at different times. I once read that it only means no prayer in public schools, but financial aid is allowed for example to parents for transportation to parochial schools.

    This idea of secular laws not applying to parochial schools is a new one for me. Could a lawyer argue that if a murder is committed in a religious institution, the law does not apply? That certainly would be ridiculous. What if two officials of a religious institution commit a crime inside of it, would that be allowed?

    It’s about time this issue were clarified once and for all.

  5. Read more carefully – it is the opinion of legal scholars and the Catholic Church, not of the HuffPost – that is quoted

  6. Wow, as if Huffington would quote legal scholars who felt otherwise. As if you would ever read a contrary opinion, or even believe that one exists.

  7. Both sides of the question were discussed – for example, the side of the Catholic Church and the side of the ACLU, two entities rarely on the same side of church-state questions.. But why would Your Twitfulness bother reading anything when that would require taking your head out of your ass.

  8. Correction: Not that there’s any danger of His Twitfulness’s intellectual curiosity resulting in exposing my mistake, however, the ACLU was quoted in the story about FEMA funds, not the sex abuse First Amendment story. Both sides of the sex abuse First Amendment argument were discussed.


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