FFRF halts state-sponsorship of Civil War commemoration worship service

A worship service was removed from the official schedule of a state-sponsored Civil War Commemoration Kickoff Weekend, after FFRF fired off an urgent 3-page letter. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) as one of the event’s organizers had invited a Christian pastor from Asylum Hill Congregational Church to lead the worship service, planned for April 17, 2011. Other sponsors of the commemoration included the City of New Britain, Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Committee, and Commission, government-affiliated entities. FFRF’s letter, sent by Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert, was sent April 4 to Dr. Matthew Warshauer, a CCSU history professor and the Civil War Commemoration Coordinator and Dr. Jack Miller, the president of CCSU. “While it may be acceptable to teach about religion’s impact on the war from a scholarly perspective, the Establishment Clause prohibits the state from sponsoring a religious worship service, thus promoting religion over nonreligion,” commented Markert. “When multiple public institutions offer a worship service at a secular commemoration, the government itself expresses an establishment of religion and shows favoritism for the Christian religion.” Markert further noted: “Sponsorship of a Christian worship service by public institutions also raises concerns under the Connecticut Constitution. The state constitution ensures that ‘[n]o preference shall be given by law to any religious society or denomination in the state’ Art. 7.” FFRF received a response April 14 from CCSU: “Thank you for alerting us to the issue regarding the inclusion of a worship service in the agenda for the Civil War Commemoration which is scheduled for this coming weekend. Dr. Warshauer has removed the service from the agenda. Please note that the service will be held in a privately owned church on private property and is not being sponsored by Central Connecticut State University.” — Bonnie Gutsch

Freedom From Religion Foundation