A federally funded AIDS brochure has been pulled after complaints that it unconstitutionally promoted religion.
The <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Florida state Department of Health had been distributing pamphlets with the message that Christians should show Christ’s love to people with AIDS for more than two years, according to the Palm Beach Post.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
The pamphlet, “A Christian Response to AIDS,” draws heavily on the Bible and states how HIV/AIDS is contracted and spread, but does not mention how to avoid it—including abstinence and using condoms.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida accused the state of violating the constitutional separation of church and state by buying and distributing the brochures with biblical messages.
In a letter addressed to Florida’s Secretary of Health, the ACLU demanded the state remove the brochure from a list of approved materials that community agencies purchase with state funds, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
“It’s clearly unconstitutional, Howard L. Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, told the newspaper. “It is not permissible for the state to spend a dime endorsing a particular theological point of view.”
The controversial brochure reads: “Answer Jesus’ Call! Reaching out to people with HIV and AIDS—and their families, friends and caregivers—is a way for each of us to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The brochure also gives ideas for how churches can build an “effective AIDS ministry.”
“A Christian Response to AIDS” was published by Channing Bete Co. in 1990 and approved for use by the Florida Department of Health in 2000.
The Associated Press reported April 5 that health department lawyers had reviewed the pamphlet and decided to immediately remove it from distribution.
Jodi Mathews is news writer for EthicsDaily.com.