The Freedom from Religion Foundation has released audio recordings of what it says is evidence of how the Trump administration has “secretly turned the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) into a bonanza of tax-paid handouts for churches and religious leaders.”
“FFRF is providing audio documentation, via a recording that it made, of clandestine calls the White House set up with Trump-allied preachers and church leaders specifically to funnel taxpayer money to churches through the PPP,” the group stated in a press release. “This giveaway to churches is the first time in U.S. history that tax funds have been directly used to pay the salaries of ministers and religious staff for religious purposes. Religious organizations received at least $7.3 billion in forgivable loans, with megachurches and thousands of Catholic dioceses amassing millions.”
“The audio of two calls between religious leaders and the White House, made available today by FFRF, confirms that the White House secretly worked to give church leaders special access to PPP, ensuring they could receive top dollars from U.S. taxpayers,” the press release continues. “The first such conference call took place on April 3, just as the PPP went into gear and a full two weeks before the Small Business Administration published its final rules on church eligibility — for the first time — for SBA funds. This secret announcement to clergy reveals that the SBA had no intention of listening to public comments on the proposed rule, and had already decided to extend these loans to churches, in spite of the Constitution and any public outcry. At the time of this call, SBA had only awarded about 10,000 of the 661,218 PPP loans.”
“The second call, 100 minutes on June 22, was even more explicit, with churches urged to apply for PPP funds before the June 30 deadline,” reads the press release. “Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, a member of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Council, explained that the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, which took in $350,000–$1 million, ‘has literally been kept solvent . . . by the Paycheck Protection Plan (sic)’ (44:30). Dobson explained that in 43 years of leading two faith-based ministries, he has ‘never asked for, nor received, one cent from the federal government’ (43:49), expressing his surprise that taxpayer funds could now flow to his ministry.”
“At that meeting, evangelist Paula White, a White House employee, touted the Trump administration’s blending of state and church, such as inserting ‘faith directors’ into every executive agency (7:50) and securing grants for religious purposes (6:45). She praised Trump for “put[ting] ‘merry’ back in Christmas (6:35).”
Read the full press release over at FFRF.org.
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