Should Government Funds Be Withheld from Church (or Synagogue) Playgrounds?

In a case currently before the Supreme Court, a Lutheran church is fighting Missouri’s decision not to allow it to benefit from a statewide program in which public funds are used to resurface playgrounds. Nathan Diament explains the case’s implications:

The legal basis of the denial is the Missouri state constitution’s “Blaine Amendment,” which states: “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or creed of religion” and no government entity “shall ever make an appropriation or pay from any public fund . . . anything in aid of any . . . church.” . . .

This provision . . . carries a pernicious pedigree. The great wave of Catholic immigration to America in the 1800s gave rise to strong anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic sentiment. In 1875, Senator James Blaine of Maine proposed an amendment to the federal constitution using the above-quoted text. The senator’s goal was to deny Catholic schools the kind of government funding that “common schools” (which were essentially Protestant) were receiving.

The amendment failed to garner a two-thirds vote in the Senate, but . . . the anti-Catholic forces succeeded in having their no-aid language adopted into all but ten state constitutions. . . .

[O]ver the past 25 years, the Supreme Court’s church-state jurisprudence has shifted to hold that while the government must not favor a particular religion, or religion in general, the Constitution also does not demand that the government disfavor religion. . . . This newer, sensible jurisprudence is at odds with the anti-religious, strict-separation approach of the Blaine Amendments.

This conflict is not an academic one. The high court’s ruling in the [Missouri] case will directly impact the very safety and welfare of the Jewish community and other faith communities.

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Read more at Jewish Week

More about: church and state, Freedom of Religion, Politics & Current Affairs, Supreme Court, U.S. Constitution

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship