The Freedom From Religion Foundation is once again urging Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and the members of the City Commission to reject a resolution advancing the Jewish faith.
In January, FFRF spoke out against a proposed $72,000 grant to renovate an eruv line in Miami Beach. (An eruv is a symbolic string or wire-imposed boundary permitting activities within it that are normally forbidden on the Sabbath as observed by Orthodox Jews.) According to the Feb. 22 agenda, while the eruv grant is no longer being considered, a resolution would reportedly issue a $25,000 grant to Temple Moses, a Jewish temple founded by Cuban Sephardic Jewish exiles, provided that the funds be “strictly used towards secular programming and services.”
“As we explained in our previous letter, the government cannot subsidize certain religions or dispense special financial benefits to religious organizations or houses of worship,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes in a letter to Gelber.
The grant would be a direct violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. By issuing a grant to a Jewish temple, the Miami Beach City Commission is showing a disregard for the foundational principle of keeping state and church as separate entities. Forcing taxpayers to support a religious institution of any sort is constitutionally impermissible, FFRF points out.
Additionally, the proposal violates the Florida state Constitution, Article 1, Section 3: “No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”
Both of these proposals show a clear favoritism for the Jewish faith, which signals that non-Jewish and nonreligious individuals (which 26 percent of Miami-Dade county residents identify as) are considered “outsiders.”
While the grant proposal to the temple says it must be used for “secular programming and services,” there is no indication as to how the City Commission would or could track this condition. The Miami Beach City Commission is recklessly gifting taxpayer dollars to a house of worship, providing financial benefit without accountability. This “restriction” would not protect the City Commission from legal challenges.
FFRF is urging Mayor Gelber and the City Commission to cease proposing these religiously motivated grants, and instead work to benefit and protect the rights of all members of the Miami Beach community.
“Money is fungible, meaning that $25,000 bestowed for a ‘secular purpose’ would free up that much of the temple’s own funds to go toward religious purposes,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Many immigrants came to the United States fleeing countries forcing them to belong to or tithe to a religion in which they disbelieved. Compelling taxpayer support of a religion is a fundamental violation of American principles.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members and several chapters all across the country, including close to 2,000 members and a chapter in the Sunshine State. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.