IFAS | Freedom Writer | Summer 2000 | nyrace.html

Church-state battle seen in NY race

New York, NY The Jewish Week (June 9, 2000) reported that church-state issues play a significant role in the Senate race between First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and Rep. Rick Lazio (R). "Although Clinton and Lazio have similar positions.they appear to be in stark contrast when it comes to the separation of church and state."

Mrs. Clinton, in an interview with Adam Dickter, said that she opposes any legislation that "would pervert religious freedom and spirituality." She strongly opposes tax dollars for parochial schools and so-called "faith-based" organizations that provide social services.

On the other hand, Rep. Lazio's record on church-state issues receives a low grade. The Republican congressman, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, has voted in favor of, or supported:

  • School vouchers
  • Funding for religious organizations
  • The Istook Amendment, which would have allowed state-sponsored prayer in public places
  • The posting of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms
  • Creation of a national day of prayer and fasting
"The separation of church and state, and related issues, are of vital importance to the American Jewish community," stated Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC. "It is a fundamental protection of our religious freedom and of the extraordinary pattern of tolerance and pluralism in religion that has marked religious life in America. It would be a disaster to see the kinds of things that would come true under the Istook Amendment."

Howard Wolfson, a Clinton spokesperson, said, "Congressman Lazio obviously thinks he can improve upon the work of Madison and the other founders."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat who represents parts of New York City, said that Lazio's support of the Istook Amendment "shows that he either has no understanding of the protection of religious liberty in this country, or that he doesn't give a damn."

© 2000 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.