Action Alert

Protest Gov. Cuomo faith-based funding office today!

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stopped by a Sunday service at Mt. Vernon's Grace Baptist Church Jan. 18 to announce the creation of the Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services. The office's first effort will be a $50-million grant program.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the governor a letter today protesting the creation of the proposal, and asks that you, as a New York State citizen, make known your strong objections as soon as you can. (Scroll down for contact information.)

One of the ways to invest in communities is you look for the stable institution to build on. When Jesus was going to build this church, he said 'I'm going to build it on Simon Peter on the rock.' You look for the rock in the community to build on. Very often the rock is the church, is the temple, is the mosque, is the faith-based institution in that community. You look at a community and you see alcohol sales, pawn brokers, check cashers, and the church. And build on the church and we want to invest in building on the capacity of the church.

Governor Cuomo's focus on the church as the "rock in the community" excludes people and organizations of no faith, FFRF contends. "There are some people for whom faith communities are oppressive, exclusionary or alienating. . . . These citizens are made to feel like political outsiders when the government has such close partnerships with sectarian religious organizations." Cuomo is also tapping a Christian minister to run the program.

The governor's office released a press statement saying: "The purpose of the office is to assist and leverage community and faith-based organizations in the delivery of education, health, workforce training, food programs and social services to communities, particularly those most in need." The office will grant funds to religious organizations and "help build the capacity of faith-based organizations to provide community services."

Courts have allowed the government to partner with religious organizations to provide secular charity activities in some circumstances, but "acting as a contractor with the government to provide for public welfare is not 'faith-based,' nor is it permissible to promote religion or discriminate based on religion, when on public time and dime," wrote FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker in FFRF's letter.

"The office is unnecessary because New York already allows religious organizations to compete in state-funded grant programs providing secular social services," FFRF wrote. "Because religious organizations are already on equal footing with secular non-profits, there is no need for the office, which is clearly designed to advance religious organizations or, as [Cuomo] put it, to 'build on the church.' "

"While the goal of bettering the community is laudable, that idea is not exclusive to faith communities and does not require such entanglement of religion to accomplish," the letter concludes.

TAKE ACTION

CONTACT GOV. CUOMO

Tell Governor Cuomo that this new program excludes nonbelievers, shows preference for funding religious groups, and is unnecessary and exclusionary! Call, email, or write today.

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Phone: 518-474-8390
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WRITE TIMELY LETTER TO EDITOR

Send a succinct letter to your favorite editor, and/or use social media to educate the public on the dangers of church/state entanglements.

CONTACT YOUR STATE LEGISLATOR

The program's $50 million grant is in the governor's budget and will be voted on by legislators. Give your state senator and assemblyperson a heads up now to your vigorous objections to Cuomo's faith-based office.

Contact information for New York Assembly Members
Address search to determine who your assembly representative is
Contact information for New York Senators (address search on the left)

Please watch the news for ongoing developments and contact your legislators or key committees as needed.

TALKING POINTS

Read FFRF's letter (linked above) for additional talking points.

Write your own message or feel free to cut and paste wording below. If you live in New York, please be sure to indicate you're a citizen.

[I am a New York citizen.] As a nonreligious person, I strenuously object to the creation of the Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services and its $50 million grant. Creating an office only for community organizations that are faith-based, and appointing a Christian minister to be its executive director, confers special status on those groups while minimizing the contributions of secular organizations and citizens of no faith. Religious organizations are already on equal footing with secular organizations in competing for state-funded grants to provide secular social services. The office elevates religious groups above other groups. Please discontinue coordination of this discriminatory office and make its funds available to all community organizations.

 

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