With one signature, the governor of Arizona created a brand new office that some worry blurs the line between church and state. She created the Office of Faith and Community Partnerships, and while some see this office as a way to admit the state needs financial help, others think it funnels state money to churches.
"Somebody's got to step up to the plate if the money's not there," said Tyler Johnson, the lead pastor at Redemption Church. He said he sees great potential in this new Office of Faith and Community Partnerships.
"We're dealing with thousands of people in the Redemption congregations that we have the opportunity to mobilize to care for the totality of our city and our state," Johnson said.
Gov. Jan Brewer's order also creates a council that's supposed to nurture partnerships between the state, non-profits and faith-based organizations. The council will be comprised of representatives from government agencies and these groups.
"I desperately want Jewish communities and Islamic communities and Sikh communities and whatever else you may say, even coalitions of atheists, to serve and seek the benefit of our city at large," Johnson said.
"It's a way to steer taxpayer dollars into the hands of faith-based groups who have no oversight," said Tory Anderson with the Secular Coalition for Arizona. She said they weren't approached at all about what she calls a back-door deal and if it had been presented as a bill during session, it wouldn't have flown under the radar.
"This is basically just the start and we have to say the separation of church and state needs to be clear and we need to say enough is enough," Anderson said.
There is an Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the national level. Anderson said a member of the Secular Coalition of America is on that board and they hope to be on this one, too.
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