AU Says Proposed Berkley Ordinance Favors Religious Groups

January 29, 2009

Author: Trina Hoaks

Source: Atheism Examiner

Americans United (AU) issued a press release yesterday in which they said that Berkley, California is proposing an ordinance that will unconstitutionally favor religious groups over non-religious groups.

Following is the press release:

A proposed Berkeley, Calif., ordinance that would only allow religious organizations to inter cremated ashes, while deny the same right to nonreligious organizations, violates the Constitution, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Current Berkeley law prohibits graveyards within city limits due to health and odor concerns. A proposed city ordinance would change zoning laws to allow columbarium construction on property used for religious assemblies. (Columbaria are structures that house the ashes of the deceased.)

The proposal means that ashes of cremated corpses, known as “cremains,” could stay in Berkeley only if maintained in a religious organization’s columbarium. Nonreligious residents, who are not permitted to build a columbarium, would be forced to travel outside the city limits to inter their loved ones’ ashes.

In a letter today to the Berkeley City Council, Americans United advised against the approval of this ordinance since the Constitution does not permit government to provide “a direct benefit to religious organizations that is denied to the nonreligious.”

See also: Interfaith, Civic