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County Jail Mass Sparks Exchange Between NY Civil Liberties Union, Astorino

Cardinal Dolan and County Executive Astorino greeted prisoners after the Mass service last Monday.
Cardinal Dolan and County Executive Astorino greeted prisoners after the Mass service last Monday. Photo Credit: Aaron Miller

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – After attending a pre-Christmas Mass hosted by Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the Westchester County Jail last week, County Executive Rob Astorino was chided by a civil liberties group that says he overstepped the separation between church and state during his remarks.

Poll
Do you think County Executive Astorino's jailhouse sermon crossed the line?
Final Results Voting Closed

Do you think County Executive Astorino's jailhouse sermon crossed the line?

  • Absolutely
    10%
  • Absolutely not
    71%
  • Probably
    3%
  • Probably not
    14%
  • Not really sure
    2%

Speaking to the 125 male prisoners in attendance, Astorino did not shy away from scripture, referencing “Jesus Christ, who died for all of us” and a God “ready to give mercy.” Dolan joked that Astorino had out-preached him; “We have Billy Graham here,” he quipped.

But Shannon Wong, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Lower Hudson Valley Chapter, was less amused, claiming that Astorino’s remarks and very participation in the Mass went too far in endorsing one religion, according to lohud.com .

Astorino, an openly devout Catholic who met Dolan while a program director of the Catholic Channel on Sirius Satellite Radio, shot back in a statement released on Monday.

“The remarks I made were entirely appropriate for the setting,” Astorino said. “They weren’t made at a town hall meeting; they were made at a voluntarily attended Catholic Mass.”

Taking up the controversial debate surrounding the Founding Father’s intentions, Astorino said, “America’s founders weren’t protecting government institutions from religion, they were protecting religions from government interference,” also noting “today’s extreme political correctness.”

However, the Civil Liberties Union, a well-known advocate of strict barriers between church and state, maintained that Astorino should steer clear of mixing the two.

For more on the Mass hosted by Cardinal Dolan last Monday, click here .

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