Report: Trump Using Relief Funds To Bailout Churches And Fund Pastors Salaries
Churches will be eligible to receive funding from the $2 trillion Coronavirus relief fund to pay utility bills and pastor’s salaries. About 350 billion dollars of the fund is set aside for small businesses, in which churches and faith-based institutions are included, reports NPR. This provision has many wondering: how weak has America’s division between church and state become?
"Faith-based organizations are eligible to receive SBA loans regardless of whether they provide secular social services," the SBA said in a statement. "No otherwise eligible organization will be disqualified from receiving a loan because of the religious nature, religious identity, or religious speech of the organization."
Larger churches have fared better than smaller ones throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. Larger institutions have switched to online donations, while smaller ones don’t have the infrastructure and make most of their money from offerings given during Sunday services. Vice President Mike Pence spoke on a conference call with pastors about their concerns amid the outbreak. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is quoted as saying that President Trump and Pence “made sure” churches would be included in the bill. It’s not the first time the Trump Administration blurred the line between church and state - under their direction, FEMA changed its rules two years back to include churches in grants which are given out after natural disasters. This new provision will take things much farther. Churches would be eligible for up to $10 million in loans, with at least 75% of the money going to cover payroll costs. The loans are partly forgivable as well, meaning that churches won’t have to worry about paying the government back in full. This bailout of churches is a glaring violation of the first amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Every dollar that goes to a pastor is one less dollar going to a small business. Since the whole purpose of the bill is to keep the American economy afloat, this seems a completely outrageous misuse of funds. It is interesting to note that conservatives balk at the idea of making religious employers pay for employee birth control when it goes against their beliefs, but they have no issue with making atheist or non-religious taxpayers pay to bail out churches. Even though there are loud dissenters to this provision, the Supreme Court refuses to reverse the decision or look at the issue more closely:
Advocates for government funding of religious institutions argue that denying them aid that is available to nonreligious institutions amounts to discrimination, and the U.S. Supreme Court has recently declined to challenge such support.
"In the last 15 years, the Court has moved increasingly in a permissive direction," says John Inazu, who specializes in religion and law at Washington University in St. Louis' School of Law. "There's just an increased willingness by the court to allow for direct funding of religious entities."
It is not enough that churches are exempt from taxes, and donations to them are tax-deductible. The Trump Administration wants us to pay for them entirely now. Read the Full Report.