A major church-state watchdog group has voiced opposition to District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray’s request for federal aid that would pay for repairs needed for the National Cathedral.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nationwide organization that focuses on church-state issues, has argued that Mayor Gray’s request is in violation of the Constitution.
“All of us are free to support a house of worship if we choose to do so, but we should never be forced to subsidize a religion we don’t believe in. The National Cathedral should look to donations, not taxpayer dollars, for its repairs,” said Joe Conn, director of Communications, for Americans United, in an interview with The Christian Post.
“It is a well-known institution beloved by many people, and I have no doubt that the needed resources could be obtained through a fundraising campaign.”
On Friday, Oct. 21, Mayor Gray sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting federal aid to pay for the damages caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that occurred in the region on Aug. 23.
“We look forward to working with the federal government to identify the best ways to recover from damages to our infrastructure and facilities like roads, bridges, schools and landmarks like the National Cathedral,” said Gray.
“I believe we must do everything we can to help the cathedral recover from this damage … This treasured monument welcomes a half-million people from across the world annually, and their visits have a tremendous impact on the city’s economy.”
Despite the words of Gray and others who believe the cathedral has secular value, Americans United nevertheless believes the cathedral should not receive money from the government.
“The National Cathedral is a church, not a secular institution, and an attempted redefinition by the mayor won’t change that,” said Conn.
“Giving $15 million in public funds to the cathedral effectively takes money from the wallets of taxpayers and places it in the collection plate. That’s a violation of our constitutional principles.”
The cathedral is expected to reopen on Nov. 12 for the consecration of the Rev. Dr. Mariann Edgar Budde as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.