Separation of church and state was at the center of a recent debate among Middleborough Community Preservation Committee members over the requested use of $5,000 in preservation funds, derived from a local tax tariff, to partially cover the cost of repairing a pipe organ at the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Middleborough. Some members questioned whether the use might violate the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits government from showing preference for one religion over another. Others wondered whether public funds could be used for a project that does not have public access, since the organ is inside a church. Those in favor of the expenditure pointed out that repair of the organ, a Boston-made Woodbury and Harris manufactured in 1890, qualified as a historic preservation effort. Church member Jeff Stevens, who had submitted the funding request, argued the public is welcome to attend weekly services and hear the organ. The church also offers periodic concerts for the public, Stevens said. While the committee ultimately voted to recommend the $5,000 expenditure, it still must win annual Town Meeting approval this spring to move forward.