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Keep church and state separate

Though the U.S. Constitution guarantees separation of church and state, some Florida officials fail to understand what that means. In 2000, state money was used to sponsor and distribute a brochure titled “A Christian Response to AIDS.” The American Civil Liberties Union is currently asking the Florida Department of Health to recall the brochure.

While it’s surprising the brochure was even purchased from Channing Bete Co., the publishers of the brochure, it’s even more amazing that it took three years for anyone to challenge the message.

Dan Carmody, spokesman for the company, was quoted by the Family News Web site as saying he agreed the brochure was religious, but the decision of whether that breeches separation of church and state was up to the individual state.

The title of the brochure alone demonstrates that it supports a particular religious belief, and using state funds to promote that view is clearly unconstitutional. While some people may see nothing wrong with looking at AIDS from a Christian’s standpoint, a brochure with the Health Department’s seal on it should remain neutral.

Further, the brochure doesn’t educate readers on ways to prevent AIDS. Instead, it uses Bible verses to encourage people to show compassion to those who suffer from AIDS. It isn’t appropriate for state funds — the public’s money — to be used to promote any religious view.

A more appropriate way to issue information about AIDS to the public would be through a publication that supplies scientific information about the disease. It could inform readers of how AIDS is contracted and explain to people that AIDS can’t be passed through regular contact.

This way, people of all religions may be motivated to help AIDS sufferers without hearing about how “Jesus calls on us to respond with love to everyone, especially those who are suffering,” as the brochure states.

State funds should be used for public benefit and, while a brochure about dealing with AIDS is a good idea, the state could use money to promote one without a religious view.