The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act, the 2 trillion dollar bill passed last March, granted forgivable loans to “qualifying businesses and non- profits”. The Small Business Administration, which administered part of the Act, declared ( but tried to keep it quiet) that houses of worship and religious private schools qualified under the Act. It handed out $ 7.3 billion in taxpayer money to over 88,000 religious organizations. In late July banks started forgiving these “loans”, thus making them grants that don’t have to be repaid. Five hundred church representatives were involved in negotiations over this give-away, along with the White House Faith and Opportunities Initiative team, the surgeon General (for some weird reason), and the Deputy assistant to the President, Jenny Lichner.
Churches and other religious organizations are tax-exempt charities that do not have to disclose their income to the IRS. Not only that, but this whole thing is blatantly unconstitutional (separation of church and state). Church leaders were assured that no strings were attached and that they were still free to discriminate on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation!
But maybe the most obnoxious aspect of this story is that the Catholic church, with 17,000 parishes, received $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid, with millions going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements (or sought bankruptcy protection) owing to clergy sexual abuse cover-ups. The Catholic church has, in short, received approval for an estimated 3,500 forgivable loans, while holding property which, in 1918 was valued at half a billion dollars (yes a hundred years ago!).
My reaction: We, dear reader, are paying to restore the finances of a church that has been abusing choirboys and others (for centuries?), and has been universally condemned for doing so. Which is why I support the teachings of Epicurus, despite a religious upbringing in the Anglican church.
I don’t think the word “corruption” quite captures what we are seeing, do you?
(This post is a precis of an article in The Humanist magazine, Sept/ Oct 2020)