The Boundaries Between Religion and HVAC – InsideSources

In the community of synagogues I’ve served for 40 years, the legendary story is of the facilities manager who installed a dummy thermostat in a prominent location so worshipers could adjust the temperature without actually changing anything. But the worry is no joke; Climate control in a building that serves a diverse audience is both necessary and expensive. And while the generosity of church members is limitless when it comes to pursuing a mission, it is the extraordinary person who is willing to fund a furnace upgrade.

So, who should pay for those improvements? I wish we could all agree that the answer is not the taxpayer.

Unfortunately that is not the case. Buried in the 2,700-page infrastructure bill that Congress is debating is a provision that would provide taxpayer-funded assistance to houses of worship to upgrade their HVAC systems to meet energy efficiency standards. At first glance, this may seem like an innocent gesture. But that is not it. It’s just the latest blurring of the right lines between religion and government. Every time we let more tax money flow into religious institutions, we make it harder to stop the next attempt. We’ve moved from funding safety grants to funding HVAC. Why not upgrades to plumbing or lighting that frees up money for the house of worship to spend on its mission? As valuable as the mission is, the government should not fund it.

The proponents of government funding of religious institutions often argue that houses of worship and other religious institutions should not be disadvantaged because of their affiliation. What’s good for a community—sidewalk maintenance, electrical wiring, building emissions—is generally good, whether the purpose of a structure is to sell groceries, safeguard personal savings, or provide exercise classes and equipment. At first glance, it seems like an irrefutable argument about the seamlessness of a community.

That statement disregards the tax-exempt benefit of religious institutions (and other nonprofit organizations). No one is arguing that first responders, fully backed by tax dollars, should be prevented from protecting and defending a house of worship. But it is unfair for a tax-exempt organization to claim rights to all aspects of public support while fiercely defending exemption from taxes paid by the community for profit, while exempting itself from many of the requirements that secular nuns face. for-profit organizations are held.

With public money comes the responsibility of the government to be accountable for the use of the funds. And anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the first freedom in the First Amendment will tell you that government regulation of religion should be avoided whenever possible.

Objecting to the financing of religion by taxpayers is critical, even if it is unpopular to do so. Safety grants to places of worship, funding disaster relief for damaged religious institutions, even donating public surplus materials to a place of worship are inappropriate. Sadly, the once vociferous community of religious institutions that once held this view has dwindled in the past 20 years.

When the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) went into effect, its purpose was to protect the practices of religions among Americans that many Americans were unfamiliar with. Reasonable adjustments had to be made for so-called “non-normative” practices that did not endanger the conduct of the private or public organization. A head covering, ritually required jewelry, a short break for private worship—these were the types of behavior that raised the eyebrows of the majority. RFRA is designed to protect the free exercise of religion.

However, what was designed as a shield became a sword. The rationale of reasonable accommodation has been used to exempt people who claim a religious objection to facilitate the practices of others that are part of the rights and privileges of citizenship. We have all seen the battles over health care, marital status and even toilets that are matters of the standing law, but are constantly challenged by groups and individuals who claim an exemption based on personal belief.

The manipulation of language and accommodation is a favored tactic of those who want to bend the intent of the law to their interpretation.

Using the rationale that allocating taxpayers’ money to keep believers safer or to restore a house of worship damaged by a hurricane, to argue that the same house of worship, which previously qualified for taxpayer assistance, should be re-qualified is almost the definition of being dishonest.

As unpopular as we thought, we would do well to remember that yesterday’s emergency supply could easily become today’s norm of behavior. In other words: the inclined plane.

It is cynical and exploitative that proponents of this provision in the Infrastructure and Labor Act strive to include it. Congress should remove it. No one wants to hold up aid to ailing civilians or repairs to crumbling bridges because of this seemingly minor detail.

But it’s wrong. And that should matter.

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