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Americans United Puts Cape May Government on Notice: Nope on Pope

The upcoming visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia and the accompanying World Meeting of Families (which may bring 2 million people to Center City) presents many challenges regarding the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

Because the Pope is a head of state, the normal security afforded to a person in that position does not present a constitutional problem. But there is also a religious aspect to his visit.

Recently, the Cape May city government announced that they will be streaming a live broadcast of the Papal Mass in their Convention Center and one of the outlets handling ticketing will be their City Hall. This is clearly a case of the government promoting a religious event.

When this was brought to the attention of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, they sprang into action. They sent a letter to the Cape May city government (see the letter below the fold) outlining how the event, as currently planned, may violate both the U.S. and New Jersey constitutions. Appropriate judicial precedents are cited, and AU goes on to provide suggestions on how this event may be provided without government sponsorship.

Pope Francis' popularity among Americans, both Catholic and non-Catholic is unprecedented. But the organizers of his visit need to pay as much attention to the Establishment Clause as they do to safety and logistics.

Disclosure: I am a card-carrying member of AU because I believe the First Amendment clearly requires separation of church and state.

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