End special treatment for the Catholic Church at VMC

It’s time for a round-up of items that recently made me roll my
eyes, shake my head, and utter a two-syllable


It’s time for a round-up of items that recently made me roll my eyes, shake my head, and utter a two-syllable “puh-lease.”

I shook my head upon learning that Santa Clara County has been paying $30,000 a year to the Catholic Diocese of San Jose to conduct masses and visit patients at Valley Medical Center. I didn’t learn about it until the cash-strapped county canceled the contract earlier this year.

How could elected officials spend public money this way? It’s an outrageous violation of the separation of church and state.

If Catholics – or Scientologists, Mormons, Jews, Protestants, Baha’is, Buddhists, Universal Unitarians or members of any religion – want to minister to followers who are patients at VMC, they can do it without taxpayer assistance.

Taxpayers already subsidize religious groups in multiple ways: churches are exempt from income and property taxes and donations to churches are tax-deductible. Beleaguered Santa Clara County taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize any church yet again.

There’s more: What about other religions? Why aren’t they paid to minister to their adherents like the Catholic Church is? And what about nonreligious taxpayers? Why should their tax dollars fund any religious organization’s ministry?

After the county canceled the contract, a bit of an uproar ensued, and the county extended the contract on a pro-rata basis through the end of May. That’s an eye-roll inducing roll-over on the part of county officials. What’s worthy of uproar is the head-shaking fact that the county ever entered into this contract and that it continued to renew it.

In any economy, this contract is unconstitutional and un-American. But in this crushing recession, it’s even more appalling. County officials should immediately end the contract and put that $30,000 toward closing the county’s $250 million budget gap, the latest in a string of staggering deficits.

The wealthy Catholic Church can and should take care of the spiritual needs of Catholic VMC patients without county taxpayers’ help.

While reading about Gilroy City Council’s recent retreat, I shook my head as I realized that the discussion of the retreat’s top-of-agenda topic, perception of the council, seemed to focus not on how Gilroyans perceive the council (all indications that I’ve seen are that it’s not good, often featuring words like “distrust” and “dysfunction”) but on how council members treat each other.

For example, the discussion included complaints about council members talking to the media, for example. Puh-lease: what a way to completely miss the point.

First, it’s a good thing when council members talk to the media, because it’s an important way to communicate with constituents. I suspect the real problem is that the complainer doesn’t like the content of the comments. If the comments to the media were all laudatory, there’d likely be no complaints.

Not only that, it’s a good thing when council members disagree: It means that issues are being more fully evaluated.

What’ s more, complaining about media contact when the topic at hand is the relationship between the council and the community only feeds distrust and fuels dysfunction.

If Gilroy’s City Council wants to improve its image in the community, members should substantively tackle the politically tricky problems facing the community. One example: Determining what public safety service levels Gilroy can afford and the most cost-effective way to achieve them, regardless of whether the deliberations and decisions upset politically powerful groups. Council members must do what’s best for the community as a whole, no matter what those decisions do to their re-election chances.

That’s leadership, that’s prioritizing the city’s interests above personal interests, and that’s how to improve City Council’s image.

Northern Mississippi’s Itawamba County School District had me rolling my eyes a lot this week.

Eye roll 1: The district specifically bars same-sex couples from attending prom. Such bigotry is appalling, but I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that some communities in Mississippi still hold racially segregated proms, 45 years since the end of Jim Crow laws.

Eye roll 2: When asked by Constance McMillen, an 18-year-old lesbian who attends Itawamba Agricultural High School, to change its policy, the school board responded by canceling the prom.

Eye roll 3: Many students are blaming McMillen, rather than the bigoted, homophobic school board, for the prom’s cancellation.

The ACLU, predictably and correctly, is suing the school district on McMillen’s behalf.

I simply cannot understand what is so scary about same-sex couples that this school district would cancel prom and invite a lawsuit rather than allow a lesbian couple at the prom. Puh-lease.

Lisa Pampuch is a technical editor and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. She lives in Morgan Hill with her husband and two children. Reach her at [email protected]

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