Americans United v. Pope Francis

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 media@becketlaw.org

September 24, 2015, The Hill

All that to say, city officials should ignore these out-of-touch naysayers. Pope Francis is a religious leader to untold millions, but he’s also a head of state and a worldwide celebrity. Cutting back public support for the Pope’s visit just because he’s Catholic is the worst kind of religious bigotry.

The reality is that the government doesn’t violate the constitution when it welcomes world leaders and opens the streets so people can celebrate—even when those celebrations happen to be religious. The Founders knew what it meant to have a state-sponsored church, and hosting Pope Francis for five days doesn’t come close. The government also doesn’t violate the constitution when it puts its best resources into making sure that public events involving millions of spectators run safely and smoothly. For Americans United to claim otherwise is simply wrong. And if Americans United succeeds in intimidating officials it could effect public safety, and that’s not just wrong – it’s dangerous.

Keim is counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit, public-interest law firm that protects the free expression of all religious traditions. Recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories. Follow her on Twitter at @AdeleKeimBecket.