Fri 5/15: While we’re distracted with Michigan’s 2nd Amendment cosplay, Trump’s SBA is killing the 1st. Comment TONIGHT, by 11:59 pm EST

The government’s taxing power should not be wielded to oblige Muslims to bankroll temples, or to coerce Jews to subsidize Christian and Catholic churches, or to force Christians to fund mosques, or to compel the nonreligious to support any of the above. One of this country’s first religious freedom laws warned that taxing citizens and giving the money to churches is “sinful and tyrannical.” The right to be free from that compulsion is the bedrock of religious liberty.” –  Andrew Seidel, author of The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American 

Action #1: Call your legislators to stop bailing out churches with COVID funds. 

While we’ve been distracted by a trifecta of disease, astroturfed lockdown protests and corruption, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has quietly annointed itself with the power to subvert the Constitution, and is handing out our taxpayer dollars to religious organizations with no requirements that it be used for secular purposes.

And this isn’t just an issue of pitting one religion against another. The taxes paid by LGBTQ, people, women and minorities could end up supporting religious groups who actively preach violence against the LGBTQ community, abortion facilities, people of color, Jews or Muslims. Physically vulnerable people have reason to fear churches who consistantly violate distancing rules, as well.

Meanwhile, over 100,000 small businesses have closed for good, which could rise to 7.5 million. SBA funds are for businesses, who pay taxes and comply with federal non-discrimination practices!

Minimal Script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Congress to stop bailing out churches with COVID funds in violation of the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. please include a provision to prevent the public funding of inherently religious activities in all future COVID legislation.

More script if you want it: I do not want to be taxed to support religions with which I disbelieve. Protecting such freedom of conscience was a core founding principle of our secular nation.

Contact
Rep. Julia Brownley: email(CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal:
email.(CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com

Action #2: Write a comment TONIGHT to stop the destruction of the 1st amendment’s wall between church and state. Deadline 11:59 pm EST.

Quickly skim down and find the violation…

1st amendment

Make your own comment here.

Read Text here.: The violation of the constitution  you’re looking for is  hidden way down near the bottom (see graphic to left), and it’s one small paragraph that states:

“All loans guaranteed by the SBA pursuant to the CARES Act will be made consistent with constitutional, statutory, and regulatory protections for religious liberty, including the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-1 and bb-3, and SBA regulation at 13 CFR 113.3-1h, which provides that nothing in SBA nondiscrimination regulations shall apply to a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society with respect to the membership or the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution or society of its religious activities. SBA intends to promptly issue additional guidance with regard to religious liberty protections under this program”    This is just the beginning…

Read the SBA’s separate 5-page FAQ here.

Read other comments for inspiration only here! Identical comments are eliminated, and there seems to be only two main types out of over 5000 comments! MAKE IT PERSONAL – RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING!

Deeper Dive

Before COVID-19 happened, SBA loans could not be given to “Businesses principally engaged in teaching, instructing, counseling or indoctrinating religion or religious beliefs, whether in a religious or secular setting.” Unless we let them! WRITE!

The slippery-slope: On April 5th, the SBA announced that faith-based organizations were eligible to receive forgivable loans, under the CARES Act, including the Paycheck Protection Program, and Economic Injury Disaster Loans and that they could use this money to pay pastors and employee salaries. This would make the hundreds of thousands of congregations and other faith-based organizations eligible for taxpayer-funded SBA business loans for the first time, instead of the small businesses who don’t have congregations to help fund  them.

The SBA’s justified this change by invoking the second clause of the first amendment, which prohibits discrimination based on religious-belief: “Those regulations bar the participation of a class of potential recipients based solely on their religious status.” No. It bars them because they are not tax-paying secular businesses. 

FEMA language changed: Following the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the Trump administration expanded public assistance eligibility for faith-based organizations under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Previously, only religious institutions providing secular activities that “help the community at large” were eligible for public assistance as community centers. In the amended 2018 policy guide for FEMA public assistance, all language that placed restrictions on religious non-profits was removed. Activities such as “worship, proselytizing, religious instruction, or fundraising activities” that were previously considered ineligible for government grants, were now eligible under the category of essential governmental-type community services.

The next small step: Since non-profit organizations were already included in the text of the CARES Act, the Small Business Administration only had to shift their policy to enable public assistance for faith-based organizations. In doing so, the Small Business Administration is ensuring that religious institutions, including houses of worship, are eligible for any loans that a private non-profit is eligible for under the CARES Act, regardless of how the money is used. The SBA makes clear that even the salaries of ministers and other staff engaged in the “religious mission” of the institutions can be covered under the grant.

 This is unconstitutional. This is un-American.

The separation of church and state is a foundational American value. Ironically, it was not created by a deist or an irate atheist, but by Roger Williams, (1603-1683), a deeply religious Baptist minister, in response to the theocratic Puritans of Massachusetts taxing all the other churches to maintain their own. Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, made the revolutionary claim that government and religion should be separated for the good of both. “I infer that the sovereign, original, and foundation of civil power lies in the people.” He respected the beliefs of others, including the Native Americans and stated that church members should pay the bills for their church instead of taking the money out of everyone’s general taxes. This all happened more than a hundred year before Thomas Jefferson’s letter of 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association.

Says Andrew Seidel, Congress cannot spend public money to build or maintain churches, to pay salaries for priests and preachers, or to fund religious ministries. Doing so is unconstitutional. Doing so forces all citizens, regardless of their religion or lack thereof, to support religions that are not their own. Even if the American religious tapestry were monochromatic and every citizen attended the same church, taxing citizens to support that church would still be “sinful and tyrannical,” as that first religious freedom law so correctly pointed out.”

How far they’ve fallen – Apologists for this new order: Russell Moore, the Southern Baptist Convention’s top ethicist, said he saw no First Amendment or church-state entanglement associated with churches applying for government loans as part of the coronavirus relief legislation enacted last month. “I would have a definite issue if you had government aid or government funding of any church. What’s happening here is a guaranteeing and a backing up of a loan that the government has an interest in because they want to keep the flow of lending going and they want to keep the economy afloat.What? NO! This is taxpayer money, going through banks, because the GOP wants them to profit too. Most of these loans will be forgiven, so it’s really just a taking from taxpayers.

Another writer posited that it was OK for Baptists to take the money because “this program does not establish or privilege any one tradition. Synagogues, mosques, Roman Catholic parishes, Quaker meeting houses and humanist associations are all invited to participate.” NO! it allows a religious group to compete for scarce resources with the  secular businesses whose taxes helped fund the program in the first place.

Churches also point to the CARES Act allowing secular non-profits to obtain PPP funding as justification why they should join in as well. Along with charitable organizations, conservative groups like FreedomWorks, are lining up for funding, as well as liberal ones like Congressional Progressive Caucus Center and Media Matters.” Critics argue “In the case of nonprofits, …it is not a good use of government money to prop up groups trying to influence the political debate in the middle of a presidential campaign. They point out that such groups do not pay taxes, and as such already receive a form of subsidy from the government. And they note that some taxpaying for-profit businesses that focus on politics are unable to avail themselves of the funding because Small Business Administration regulations prohibit loans to businesses that get more than half their revenue from political or lobbying work.” These are all fair arguments, and Congress should more carefully examine this issue in the future and limit access to charitable or service organizations.  But none of these groups has the moral authority of religion, a completely different and sometimes toxic animal. They are not the same thing.

We are talking about a lot of money: According to FFRF:…hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars could flow to churches with the rules the Small Business Administration has implemented for round one of the stimulus package. Christianity Today…estimates that churches “could easily capture one-third of the entire $350 billion allocation.” A new survey by LifeWay Research found that 40% of Protestant churches in the U.S. applied for government assistance offered either through the CARES Act or the Small Business Administration, and 23% of those church’s pastors reported that their applications were accepted — meaning that 59% of Protestant churches that applied for assistance were approved. This is money that was supposed to go to small businesses, businesses who paid taxes, treated their customers according to federal anti-discrimination standards and played by the rules.

Affiliation exemptions add up to more $: Individual churches connected to the larger ministries could still qualify as a small business if it counts its employees as under 500. Each part can also count for a separate grant – for instance, a Catholic school could get a loan, as could the church that runs the school. So the school could get double counted when calculating the loans. Then the local parish could claim both the school and the church in its application, triple counting the school and double counting the church. The diocese could get a chunk of funding that includes that parish, the church, and the school. So might the archdiocese — and on up.

According to FFRF: Between 12,000 and 13,000 of the 17,000 U.S. Catholic churches applied for loans, and 9,000 received them — despite the Vatican’s own bank and priceless collection of art. (If these churches got average loans, that’s more than $1.4 billion of public money flowing to an organization that has institutionalized the rape and abuse of children, covered up those crimes, and done all it can to prevent victims seeking justice.)”

No proof required: And, as is the case with all the SBA loans under the CARES Act, all that is required is a “good-faith certification” of eligibility. From the FAQ: “SBA will not assess, and will not permit participating lenders to assess, the reasonableness of the faith-based organization’s good-faith determination that this exception applies.

Trump’s SBA cheerfully removed constitutional constraints: All real small businesses have to follow federal antidiscrimination laws, and where churches interact in secular work, they would too. But churches are given special dispensation from the SBA for their religious work to do what they want. The SBA justifies this exemption by relying on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but its interpretation is flawed. The Act does not give the SBA the authority to create blanket exemptions.

The SBA “declines to enforce”: (From an SBA FAQ sheet) “That is, no otherwise eligible organization will be disqualified from receiving a loan because of the religious nature, religious identity, or religious speech of the organization. The requirements in certain SBA regulations—13 C.F.R. §§ 120.110(k) (SBA business loans) and 123.301(g) (economic injury disaster loan)—impermissibly exclude some religious entities. Because those regulations bar the participation of a class of potential recipients based solely on their religious status, SBA will decline to enforce these subsections and will propose amendments to conform those regulations to the Constitution.” (Both linked clauses prevent cash going to”Businesses principally engaged in teaching, instructing, counseling or indoctrinating religion or religious beliefs, whether in a religious or secular setting.“)

Better-than-Bingo and NO TRANSPARENCY!: Unlike other non-profits, churches don’t even have to be registered as 501(c) 3 non-profits to be eligible for funds, they only have to meet the requirements. “As part of their public trust, 501(c)(3) nonprofits (have to) file an annual report with the IRS that details specific financial information. Every penny donated and spent is tracked in the Form 990, which is filed with the IRS. Unlike other 501(c)(3)s, churches are not required to file anything. They are financial black holes.

And to make matters worse, churches qualify for CARES Act funds even if they’ve never registered as a church with the IRS, according to the SBA’s guidance. Receiving these taxpayer funds could be literally both the first and last time the government ever hears of them.

If you were thinking about making up your own religion, this is your time. “You scoundrels out there will be excited by this. There is very little transparency required of churches and this program does not require much in the way of scrutiny. Up until now my Third Church of Syncretal Confusion has existed just in my mind and my $100,000 ministerial stipend has just accrued as treasure in heaven. I have received direction from my spirit guide to apply for $20,000 from PPP. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

Equal means equal, right?:

Without transparency, it’s going to be hard to see who gets the money. But anecdotal information indicates that larger churches, like larger secular businesses, seem to be cleaning up with their greater access to bank infrastructure.

We have representation from all of our nine major African-American denominations,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP. “Most of them have complained about the lack of responsiveness from the banks to which they have submitted applications. These are churches from San Francisco to Detroit to Florida to Connecticut. We hear a consistent concern from church leaderships across the country.

Did you really mean ALL religions?:

Yes. It’s official. The Satanic Temple, not to be confused with the Church of Satan, is now an official religion, complete with 7 great tenets and  tax-exempt status. They are now more than qualified to sign up for PPP funding.

Satanic Temple

Some Americans just forget that Christianity, in all its many forms, is not America’s only religion. When Republican Governor Bobby Jindal pushed for a school voucher program to use state funds to pay for religious schools in Louisiana in 2012, Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Watson) was very excited until those other religions showed up for their share of public largess. I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools. Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion. We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.

When all the other religions show up for their share of the pie, there will be a lot of angry people, because religion and government should stay 6′ away from each other at all times.

 

 

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