The Washington Post reports today that the separation of church and state has been repealed in the District of Columbia:
District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray is seeking emergency funding for restoration of Washington National Cathedral from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after touring the earthquake-damaged church.
Gray called the cathedral an “iconic monument” in the city during a tour Thursday. He noted it is visited by more than 500,000 people a year from around the world.
The cathedral and the Washington Monument sustained significant damage during the 5.8-magnitude quake that shook the nation’s capital nearly three months ago. Initial repairs to the cathedral are expected to cost at least $15 million. The monument remains closed, while the cathedral is scheduled to reopen Nov. 12.
I’m not a strict separationist a la Americans United or the ACLU, but this strikes me as grossly unconstitutional. Regardless of its name, the National Cathedral is owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and while it has been a hub of interreligious activity (some of which has been simply the promotion of good old fashioned paganism), it is still a denominational, rather than public, structure. It doesn’t matter how many “secular” or civil religion events (say, presidential funerals) take place there, its fundamental nature as a church of a particular denomination remains. I’ll be watching to see whether the usual self-appointed guardians of the First Amendment speak up in favor of having the Episcopal Church rather than the taxpayers foot the bill for the repairs.