Synagogue under construction

Energy Bill Threatens Separation of Church and State

The Senate is currently considering the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act, which would allow the government to fund the retrofitting or “greening” of nonprofit buildings. Although we support the goal of making nonprofit buildings more environmentally-friendly, we are deeply concerned that as currently written, the bill would allow direct government funding of houses of worship. Urging a change to this problematic language, Rabbi David Saperstein, submitted testimony to the committee hearing.

In the testimony, he argues:

“We believe that retrofitting buildings for increased efficiency is one important way to meet emissions reductions targets. However, we are deeply troubled by the language that explicitly makes houses of worship eligible to receive funding for building retrofits. The Reform Jewish Movement has a long history of strong opposition to government funds flowing directly to houses of worship as it is both unconstitutional and bad public policy (raising serious concerns for “church autonomy” and religious liberty). Indeed, direct cash funding of houses of worship has never been upheld by the Supreme Court…

“The Reform Movement is deeply committed to putting our nation and our world on the path to a clean, sustainable, and equitable climate and energy future. In doing so, however, we must not compromise the wall separating church and state, which has been a bedrock of democracy and the foundation of religious liberty in our country for over two hundred years.”

Read the rest of the testimony here.


Image from the Jewish Journal

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Raechel Banks

About Raechel Banks

Raechel Banks is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. She grew up in Dallas, TX, as a member of Temple Emanu-El. She recently graduated from Brandeis University.

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