Church/state, no divide


To The Editor:

The decision of the town of West Tisbury at the annual town meeting to spend $150,000 on the Congregational Church, in addition to the $30,000 it has already spent, is totally unacceptable. I cannot say that it surprises me. It is just one more instance of a group of special interests being able to prevail on a local government no matter how unconstitutional their actions are. Parishioners who attended the meeting stated that many groups use the church facilities, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the town owns seven buildings largely not used that could house these group meetings. I am quite sure many residents in the nicer historic section of town want to keep their part of the town picture-postcard perfect. Forget about the other not-so-nice sections of the town. It is not unusual to find 80- to 100-house subdivisions on dirt road, some back to back. One has 20 traffic-generating businesses on it, many of which are light industrial. One would have to go to a third world country to find something similar.

I have tried since 1987 to get the town to take responsibility for these subdivisions, but they have refused, stating that they are private roads, and instead have doubled their potential size by allowing residences in garages, barns, and other structures. But money for a church is fine. The dust levels in these subdivisions are illegal. The town has the nerve to charge for habitation permits in areas they have rendered not fit for habitation.

Since the finance committee recommended this spending, perhaps it will recommend the elimination of government and history classes in the schools to offset it. Clearly the teaching of concepts such as the separation of church and state are a waste of money in West Tisbury. On the positive side, the American Civil Liberties Union has expressed an interest in this case. If they take it up, the finance committee can recommend paying town counsel, who was mum during the passage of this article, to defend it. James SepanaraWest Tisbury