Religious Earmarks Take Away Nearly $30,000,000 of Federal Money

Earmarks are “congressional provisions directing approved funds to be spent on specific projects.” In other words, legislators can direct federal money to pet projects (usually in their cities or states).

The Secular Coalition for America reviewed 24 Congressional appropriations committee reports from the fiscal year 2008.

They found over 140 earmarks that are “constitutionally suspect.”

Those earmarks — set aside for religious activities — total nearly $30,000,000.

Among the projects financed by your money? Training programs for evangelical ministers, homeless shelters that try to convert clients to Christianity, and colleges whose students must believe in Biblical inerrancy.

Here are some of the SCA’s findings:

  • Both parties support religious earmarks
  • Our study found that political party was a poor indicator in determining whether a member of Congress would provide an earmark to a religious organization; 52 percent were sponsored by Republicans and 42 percent were Democrat sponsored. Six percent of the earmarks were bipartisan…

  • Sens. Arlen Specter, Kit Bond lead in religious earmarks
  • … Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) provided 8 earmarks to religiously motivated and operated abstinence-only programs with funding totaling $365,000. Senator Specter produced an additional 12 earmarks, mostly to religious colleges, for about $1,300,000.

    In fact, Senator Specter requested the greatest number of religious earmarks, by far, of any member of Congress. In sheer dollars, Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) was the leader with a total of $2,250,000 in religious earmark requests.

  • Some ministries granted multiple earmarks
  • Several organizations received multiple earmarks from different Congressional sponsors; for example, World Impact Ministries, a Christian group that “ministers cross-culturally to people unreached by the gospel of Jesus Christ through evangelism, follow-up, discipleship and indigenous church-planting,” received five earmarks for a total amount of $1,875,000 from Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) and from Representatives William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS). Teen Challenge, a program designed for at-risk youth that involves conversion to Christianity, received four earmarks for a total of $600,000 from Representatives Christopher Carney (D-PA), Steve Buyer (R-IN), Jim Ramstad (R-MN) and Howard Coble (R-NC).

The SCA even provides a list of the Top Ten Most Egregious Earmarks:

  1. $750,000 to renovate World Impact Ministries St. Louis Headquarters (Bond, R-MO).
  2. $200,000 to the International Fellowship of Chaplains to pay for their attendance at the Road to Hope Training Program (Gillmor*, R-OH).
  3. $200,000 to the Lower East Side Conservancy, a group that works to restore and preserve living synagogues (Maloney, D-NY).
  4. $200,000 to the Goodwill Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter that seeks to convert its clients to Christianity (Lautenberg, D-NJ).
  5. $850,000 for construction at Morning Star Ranch, a Christian-only camp that trains youth to become lay evangelists (Brownback, R-KS).
  6. $300,000 to Wildwood Ranch, another Christian-only camp (Conyers, D-MI).
  7. $350,000 to Northwest Nazarene University, an evangelical college with a strict code of conduct that does not admit nontheists and possibly gays/lesbians (Craig and Crapo, R-ID).
  8. $450,000 to Grace College, an evangelical Christian college that requires belief in an inerrant Bible for admission (Souder, R-IN).
  9. $150,000 to Quinn Chapel in Chicago for renovation (Davis, D-IL).
  10. $150,000 to New Hope Academy, a reform and rehabilitation program that requires conversion to Christianity (Carney, D-PA).

*Rep. Gillmor died Sept. 5, 2007. He was succeeded by Robert Latta.

A letter was sent to all 107 Congress members who sponsored one of these earmarks.

Constitutionally prohibited earmarks include those directing taxpayer dollars towards religious organizations that provide earmark-supported services only to people who share their religious beliefs or that limit employment opportunities funded by the earmark to fellow believers. Also, the federal funds, or equipment and facilities purchased with federal funds, must not be used for inherently religious activities such as worship, religious instruction or proselytization. Government funding of any of these activities advances the religious mission of the organization; this is a violation of the Establishment Clause and therefore unconstitutional.

The letter was also sent to the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Both groups engage in litigation.

The research was undertaken by Tom Antonsen, a student at Oberlin College, who interned with the SCA.

(via Secular Student Alliance)


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://www.thechristianmanifesto.wordpress.com C.E. Moore

    Pork barrell spending is what I believe this is called. However, federal tax dollars also go to fund abortions, which totals FAR higher than 30 million, which most Christians do not support. Billions also go into the military industrial complex, much to the chagrin of pacifists everywhere. Tax dollars also go to the study of LOBSTERS in Maine, which the other 49 states see no reason for. The fun thing about tax dollars is that they go to support things that ALL of us will disagree on somewhere down the road. But, as long as I am a Bible believing Christian, you can consider the taxes I pay as part of the money that went to the religious institutes and you can consider your tax dollars to have gone to some secular endeavor. We ALL have to pay taxes. Why do we always assume the piddly amount we had to put in the pot went towards the thing we hate the most? I hate that taxes fund abortions, but if you think its a woman’s right to choose, consider your money well spent. I love it when organizations do the work of the Gospel, so I will consider my money to have gone there. (By the way, having worked in Christian organizations that accept government funding, as a general rule, there are a TON of criteria they must meet to receive those funds.)

    And, for the record, groups that use religious mediation as part of their programming for at-risk youth have a MUCH higher success rate than their “secular” counterpart. What is the trade-off? Take the money away from these groups because they mention Jesus and have their success rate fall? Or, shouldn’t those who disagee with religion quietly disagree with the organization’s religious motivation, but note their achievements? So, while earmarks are given to various Christian organizations, I don’t believe it is done haphazardly. However, I am not beyond being wrong about money being given out indiscriminately. It IS the government and they ARE funding LOBSTER research.

  • Siamang

    The fun thing about tax dollars is that they go to support things that ALL of us will disagree on somewhere down the road.

    The fun thing about having a Constitution is that some of these things are supposed to be out of the question entirely. Sure, there are some things I don’t like that will still get funded. But funding religions isn’t supposed to be up for debate.

    Let the courts remedy these cases. And let’s start taxing churches the same as every other business.

  • http://www.happilyunblessed.blogspot.org Terrence Jackson

    Earmarking in general is a practice that needs to go by the wayside. When we look at the trillion dollar defecit of this country, and the economic plans of sen. Obama and sen. Clinton that are in upwards of 30 billion dollars, this practice does nothing but suck money from more important areas. Sadly, outlawing the practice will remove the good proposals, which is unfortunate. Something does need to be done.

  • cautious

    Just to be contrarian…

    Tax dollars also go to the study of LOBSTERS in Maine, which the other 49 states see no reason for.

    One of the ecology grad students at my school (in Southern California) was studying Maine lobsters.

    Less contrarian, IAW what Siamang said.

  • BZ

    Any links to any proof that religious groups have a higher success rate than secular groups for at-risk youth?

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    However, federal tax dollars also go to fund abortions, which totals FAR higher than 30 million, which most Christians do not support.

    link? Does the money go towards abortions or to places liked Planned Parenthood? I doubt the money is only for abortions. Abortions, lobsters, and the military are not religion, we may disagree but the constitution doesn’t call for separation of government and marine life.

    And, for the record, groups that use religious mediation as part of their programming for at-risk youth have a MUCH higher success rate than their “secular” counterpart.

    I would like to see this record or at least a link to the study.

  • PrimeNumbers

    It always amazes me how “good” Christians will cheat and break the rules to benefit themselves.

  • http://www.nautblog.blogspot.com Sean the Blogonauts

    I would also like to see evidence of the “religious mediation” being more effective. Considering that christ focussed treatment of mental illness in Australian has caused a stir.

  • TXatheist

    C.E.Moore, federal funding can go to Planned Parenthood but not to abortion services. If that happens they will lose the federal funding once it’s discovered(profit and loss statements/tax forms will “out” them). As far as religious programs working better…bunk. Lubbock ISD has been pushing religious based abstinence and they are worse than most of Texas.
    http://www.ncsse.org/mandates/TX.html
    The silver ring program(abstinence til marriage) which was getting federal funding had a 88% failure rate.

  • http://splendidelles.wordpress.com/ Elles

    I suppose that a case can be made for restoring churches in the name of art and architecture, but no… I do not want tax money going to converting people, or organizations that discriminate on the basis of religion (or lack thereof) and sexual orientation.

    Geesh…

  • Karen

    So, while earmarks are given to various Christian organizations, I don’t believe it is done haphazardly.

    No, it’s not done haphazardly. It’s done in a very calculating manner to earn the sponsor good will that s/he hopes will turn into loyalty and votes down the line.

    That’s the definition of an earmark: It’s unscrutinized, it’s not subjected to committee review or studies that show its benefits. Remember the Alaskan “bridge to nowhere”? In this case, what’s being revealed is worse than pork – it’s unconstitutional. C.E., you don’t seem to understand that we are not supposed to have government funding of any religious endeavor in this country.

    Earmarks are slipped into appropriations bills and its hoped they will quietly pass without anyone “noticing.” That way, the congressperson can go back home and brag about the money s/he brought back to the district.

  • http://www.thechristianmanifesto.wordpress.com C.E. Moore

    Here’s a study you might find interesting. That’s just ONE.

    http://www.fuller.edu/sop/integration/Publications/faculty_publications/tanhawkins.pdf

    As for money being earmarked for religious groups, churches are tax-exempt because of the separation of church and state. They CAN’T be taxed. What’s more, if churches were taxed, the world would be in much worse shape, as much of the money that churches receive are funneled right back into the community (there are, of course, a few bad apples in the bunch). Furthermore, the government is not respecting the establishment of any particular religion, as Christian organizations are not the only religious groups to receive religious funding. And, in order to receive funding, part of the deal is that you cannot directly proselytize. Take the Salvation Army, for instance. They accept money from the goverment for many of the endeavors. But, they have found religiously mediated change is the best for helping thouse with an alcohol problem (the same goes for AA). So, they accept NO money from the government for those particular endeavor, choosing instead to funnel all the money from the SA Thrift Stores directly into those ministries. And, again, there is a higher success rate for their ministry and AA than for other groups that lack that component. That information is readily available at their respective websites.

  • Siamang

    To defend CE, some pregnant women can get abortions through medicare, but only if their life is threatened by the pregnancy, or in cases of rape or incest.

    I’ll leave the abortion discussion itself to others. I am of the position that in these three types of cases that medicare should cover these procedures.

    None of which is germane to this discussion, which is specifically about the question of Constitutionality, not “Congress funds stuff I personally don’t like”, which will occur in every single form of government imaginable.

  • Kate

    And, again, there is a higher success rate for their ministry and AA than for other groups that lack that component. That information is readily available at their respective websites.

    Because that’s a totally unbaised source of information. That’s like going to Suave’s website and seeing them say that their shampoo is “way better” than any other. Until I see a correctly done meta-analysis, or comprehensive study, of the effectiveness of programs, *while controlling for the amount of funding supplied*, I will not be convinced.

  • http://blog.lib.umn.edu/fole0091/epistaxis/ Epistaxis

    CE Moore:

    So, they accept NO money from the government for those particular endeavor, choosing instead to funnel all the money from the SA Thrift Stores directly into those ministries.

    So you’ve changed your mind and now you agree all the religious groups listed in the SCA report should have their federal funding yanked? Or are you saying that respecting the Constitution is the job of private charities, not Congress?

  • http://www.thechristianmanifesto.wordpress.com C.E. Moore

    No, I haven’t changed m mind. Because, religious groups can do things for underlying religious reasons without having to proselytize. Why yank the money if the SA is feeding and housing the homeless, but not preaching with words? Should they be penalized and people remain homeless and hungry because of the SA’s motivations? They aren’t allowed to preach to those who stay in their homes (unless asked directly) and they can’t force people to attend meetings they hold. I think the government understands that a vaccum will be created if funding is pulled from worthwhile religious organizations. Not all are worthwhile, I’ll give you that. Hence, pork barrel.

    Furthermore, just because someone reports their own numbers does not mean it is biased. Many here are biased against any religiously mediated change. What’s the difference? I hesitate to say this, but numbers don’t lie.

  • Aj

    Would religious people stop working on these projects if the organisations who got the money had to be secular in nature? Religious people with religious motivations can do secular good in secular organisations. It would say a lot about the religious people if they did not, and what the money is actually being used for.

    Government money being used for promotion of religious nonsense is like government money being used for an expedition to Ireland to find leprechauns.

  • Karen

    C.E., the study you linked to is not about at-risk youth. It’s about whether people who already identify themselves as Chrstians do better in inpatient mental health treatment if a Christian treatment protocol is used, as opposed to a non-religious protocol. The study isn’t even definitive. It only concludes that Christians MIGHT do better if their religious beliefs are taken into account during therapy.

    That seems like a no-brainer to me, and not supportive of the assertion that you initially made.

    I haven’t studied at-risk youth, but I did do a fair amount of research on religious programs for inmates. And from what I saw, there was NO correlation between recidivism rates and participation in religious treatment programs in jail. Large majorities in both groups consistently committed additional crimes after being released.

  • TXatheist

    Take the Salvation Army, for instance. They accept money from the goverment for many of the endeavors.

    They shouldn’t be allowed to get funding since they violate the equal hiring requirements. The SA can deny someone employment because they are atheist or gay if they choose to. I thought that was a major reason United Way stopped portioning money to SA.

  • Kate

    numbers don’t lie.

    No, but you can sure as hell twist them. Or forget to covary certain things (like funding, etc.) and them people draw faulty conclusions.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 Ben

    I’m not sure churches’ tax exempt status has anything to do with the separation of church and state. I thought it was based on the church being one of many types of non-profits that aren’t taxed. No definitive reasons turn up in my searches, though.

  • http://mypantstheatre.blogspot.com bullet

    “$200,000 to the Lower East Side Conservancy, a group that works to restore and preserve living synagogues (Maloney, D-NY). ”

    While the group is also called (or used to be, it’s hard to tell) the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, “an organization whose mission is to promote and preserve Jewish culture on the Lower East Side,” the preservation of history is a worthy cause and I don’t think it belongs on that list. The history of NYC includes an awful lot of Jewish immigrants and ghettos. It would be hard to argue that their mission is the promotion of religion rather than promotion of ethnic history.

  • Aj

    bullet,

    While the group is also called (or used to be, it’s hard to tell) the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, “an organization whose mission is to promote and preserve Jewish culture on the Lower East Side,” the preservation of history is a worthy cause and I don’t think it belongs on that list. The history of NYC includes an awful lot of Jewish immigrants and ghettos. It would be hard to argue that their mission is the promotion of religion rather than promotion of ethnic history.

    I support the funding of projects if people want to be educated about the Jewish culture, but not to “promote” or “preserve” it. I think such language indicates that something isn’t right about the project.

  • julie marie

    kudos to Tom Antonsen. Turning the light on in a roomful of secrets is the first step–we can’t address what we don’t know about.


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