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Editorial: Gore goes to church

At the Allen AME Church in St. Albans, the line between church and state is often blurred. For years, the Rev. Floyd Flake was comfortable wearing two hats as the pastor of one of the largest and most active churches in New York and as a congressman representing southeast Queens. And so, it was little surprise two weeks ago to see Flake sharing his pulpit with Vice President Al Gore, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Rev. Flake freely gave Gore his endorsement in front of his entire congregation. Flake did not say, "Let's pray for all of the people running for elected office." Flake told the 1,000 people sitting in their pews, "This is the man who should be the next president."

No one can fault Gore for going to church. If you want to reach the people of southeast Queens on a Sunday morning, you don't do it by appearing on "Meet the Press" or "Face the Nation." Nor could Gore have found anyone in southeast Queens whose opinion is more respected.

Flake should think seriously before ever again turning his sanctuary into a whistlestop for any candidate. As a pastor, when Flake steps behind his pulpit, he speaks with a special authority. In such a setting, when he says Gore should be the next president, he should know that his words carry extra weight. This is where the faithful come to hear the word of God. When he uses that position to make a political endorsement, he crosses an ethical line.

Imagine if Cardinal O'Connor were to endorse Mayor Giuliani from St. Patrick's Cathedral or if Billy Graham were to voice a political preference during a televised crusade. The outcry would be deafening. And yet, no one even whispered a complaint when Gore went to Allen AME looking for votes.

After church, Gore met privately with the Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton had announced several weeks earlier that any candidate looking for black votes would have to come to New York to kiss his ring - so to speak.

For Sharpton the line between church and state is never blurred, it's totally obliterated.

Build the schools

A proposal to build three schools on the campus of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center continues to generate controversy.

The schools will serve children in both District 26 and District 29. A few myopic parents are offended because the campus, which lies near the border, is technically in District 26. So what.

The plans include building a 650-seat primary school, a 900-seat intermediate school and a 1,000-seat high school in a borough where 9,500 new seats are needed. Do the arithmetic. Queens needs these schools and this plan will put the construction on a fast track.

A few have questioned whether it was a good idea to have students from 5 to 18 on the same campus. Although this could become a problem, it has its advantages. Parents may find that they like the continuity that comes when children go from kindergarten all the way through high school at the same location.

The bottom line is that Queens needs new schools yesterday. Opposing the plan because Creedmoor is on the wrong side of Queens Mason-Dixon line makes no sense. If these schools can offer children a quality education in modern classrooms, we doubt that parents will worry about the implications of the geography or whether the school is in District 29 or District 26.

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