"The purpose of the Department of Justice is to do the business of the government, not to establish a religion," an unnamed Justice attorney tells The Washington Post in a front-page story about the AG AG (that's Assemblies of God Attorney General). "It strikes me and a lot of others as offensive, disrespectful and unconstitutional. … It at least blurs the line, and it probably crosses it." Actually, John Ashcroft's daily Bible study with some of his staffers (including an Orthodox Jew) comes nowhere near the line. But that hasn't stopped church-state-separation absolutists like Barry Lynn from criticizing the meetings. The executive director of Americans United for Church and State—who has wormed his way onto way too many journalists' Rolodexes, says it's wrong for Ashcroft to "inject religion so blatantly into the agency." He also tells the Associated Press, "Justice Department employees who do not participate may feel their job advancement is hindered. Whenever a superior orchestrates a religious event, the people who work for him feel pressure to participate in order to advance their careers."
Actually, though it might be unwise to have private, voluntary meetings like this because they can create in-groups, there's certainly no Constitutional questions at stake here. "The attorney general didn't give up his First Amendment rights when he took his oath of office, and it would be dangerous to expect him to do so," writes syndicated columnist (and almost-fellow-Bush-cabinet-member) Linda Chavez. Another Creators Syndicate columnist, Mona Charen, defends Ashcroft: "Honestly, to suggest that Ashcroft is somehow compromising his position or offending ...1
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