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ACLU's stance on objects of worship

August 04, 2007

Re "A safety hazard or special treatment?" July 30

The Times misrepresented the ACLU's position with regard to prayer rugs. The ACLU believes that the state should not pay for religious symbols or objects of worship, including prayer rugs, microphones to broadcast the call to prayer, rosaries or crucifixes, but it can -- under limited and appropriate circumstances -- pay for items that genuinely are designed to protect health and safety. In fact, this issue would be simpler if the government were providing prayer rugs, which have a clear religious purpose. Instead, the government is building foot baths, which are not inherently religious: They are not blessed, cannot be desecrated and are open to everyone for any purpose.

Not every government expenditure to promote safety is unconstitutional simply because it has an incidental benefit to worshipers. For example, when the pope visited Hamtramck 10 years ago, the ACLU of Michigan did not oppose the use of city funds for security because the motive and effect was to ensure the pope's safety, not to promote Christianity.

Kary L. Moss

Executive director

ACLU of Michigan

Detroit

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