Here’s a question that’s going to come up many times over the next few weeks: How much taxpayer money should be used to finance Pope Francis‘ trip to the U.S.?
Correct answer: None. He’s a religious leader and it’s not the government’s responsibility to create advertisements for Catholicism. No other religious leader would (nor should) get this sort of treatment.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has already criticized New York City’s ticket giveaway for the Pope’s “Central Park Procession.” His appearance in the city will already cost taxpayers approximately $1.5 million a day. And yet FFRF is alone in complaining about this.
FFRF also called out prisoners who were tasked with building a chair for the Pope.
In the latest example of a government promoting the Pope’s faith, the city of Cape May (New Jersey) was going to stream the Papal Mass at the Cape May Convention Hall. But after hearing from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, they’ve finally decided against it:
“The city attorney sent us a letter yesterday that confirmed the city would no longer be a sponsor of the event and will no longer be distributing tickets at City Hall,” said Alex Luchenitser, Americans United’s associate legal director.
Americans United complained to officials Sept. 10 that the city’s sponsorship of the papal Mass broadcast at Cape May Convention Hall was in violation of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits government bodies from taking any action that communications a message of endorsement of religion.
Think about how hard this is for groups like FFRF and AU. These are not popular moves that will endear them to the public. It’ll lead to bad press and even worse reputations. People love Pope Francis; they’ll treat these complaints as “attacks” even though they’re not.
Just because the Pope is well-liked, it’s not a license for government officials to forget the First Amendment. They shouldn’t be promoting religion over non-religion or Catholicism over everything else.