Religious Organisations Receive $7.3 Billion In Pandemic Aid, Megachurches Amass Millions

Religious groups are getting special treatment from the government’s pandemic-relief efforts

9 July 2020

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Religious organisations have received at least $7.3 billion in forgivable loans from a taxpayer-funded pandemic aid bailout, Treasury Department data shows. Evangelical leaders with ties to President Trump and megachurches have pulled in some of the largest payouts.

Newsweek reports:

Religious organizations across the U.S. have received at least $7.3 billion in federal rescue package loans, with evangelical leaders tied to President Donald Trump and megachurches tied to scandals pulling in some of the largest payouts.

Treasury Department data released Monday shows that religious organizations, ranging from nearly 10,000 Catholic churches to hundreds of Jewish groups, received 88,411 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans since the program began April 3. Several churches affiliated with outspoken Trump supporters and close associates amassed at least $17.3 million in loans intended to help small businesses and nonprofits retain workers.

Houses of worship across the country, including many tied to sexual abuse and financial scandals, took advantage of PPP, which allows recipients of the government’s 1 percent interest loans to have them converted into nontaxable grants. This week’s Treasury Department report of payouts through June 30 notes that “traditionally non-profits are not eligible to receive SBA-guaranteed small business loans,” but PPP has enabled the aid during the coronavirus pandemic.

Included among the top loan recipients is Robert Jeffress, a vocal supporter of Trump. The HuffPost reports that the megachurch “was approved for a forgivable loan worth $2 million to $5 million”.

According to the HuffPost, “Also in the $5 million-$10 million bracket were the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino, California, which has publicly acknowledged its role in a decades-old sexual abuse scandal, and Willow Creek Community Church Inc. in Illinois. In 2018, the Chicago Tribune, citing court records, reported that Willow Creek paid $3.25 million to settle lawsuits alleging a church volunteer sexually abused children.”

To make things worse, American Atheists estimated “that another $4 to $8 billion of taxpayer money has gone to private schools, most of which are religious”.

The separation of church and state is supposed to prevent government favoritism of religion, the Atlantic says, but “the past few months have seen a near-complete collapse of this principle at the national level, at least with respect to government funding of religion”.

The Progressive Secular Humanist agrees, “Make no mistake, these church bailouts are a clear violation of the separation of church and state. Instead of helping America’s small businesses, the federal government is now supporting churches with taxpayer money, something the Constitution explicitly prohibits. Indeed, it is outrageous to think that the current administration would sink so low as to violate the separation of church and state and trash the U.S. Constitution, but here we are.”

Trump-Linked Churches Get Big Pandemic Loans

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