After Pushback, County Council Member Removes $7,000 Budget Item Earmarked for Child Evangelism Group

You may recall how Jim McCune, the Pierce County Council member (in Washington state), made a push last week to give Child Evangelism Fellowship $7,000 in funding. CEF is a Christian group whose mission involves proselytizing to and converting elementary school students via their Good News Clubs.

Pierce County Council Jim McCune is in the center.

What made McCune’s budget amendment even more appalling was how he defended his decision:

McCune said Friday night Child Evangelism Fellowship is non-denominational, and the money would not go towards religious items.

“Yes, (CEF) may come from a certain book (the Bible), but it’s not a so-called religious foundation. Completely separate,” McCune explained.

Riiiiiiiight.

Yesterday, Pierce County held the final meeting to approve the budget — and the $271,000,000 bill passed unanimously. However, McCune’s future-lawsuit-bait wasn’t part of that final budget:

A half-dozen people spoke out against a $7,000 allocation for Child Evangelism Fellowship of Pierce County from the budget for youth violence prevention. Dozens more had objected via the county’s website.

McCune said the U.S. Constitution permits religious organizations to receive government money. But he said he was “reluctantly” removing the expenditure.

“I’m pulling this because I don’t want to have my fellow council members disrupted,” he said.

McCune proposed shifting the money to two other groups: $2,500 to Changing Rein Equine Assisted Activities & Therapies and $4,500 to 4-H in Graham.

The council approved McCune’s amendment unanimously.

That’s great news. However, another budget item for Christians went under the radar and was included in the final vote:

Sam Mulvey, president of Humanists of Washington, said he was glad the council removed the money for Child Evangelism Fellowship. But Mulvey, of Tacoma, said he objected to another Christian organization — Young Life — receiving $15,000 in the 2014 budget for its Anderson Island camp. The council didn’t address that budget item.

At the same meeting Councilmember Connie Ladenburg (D-Tacoma) suggested amending the budget to include the statement, “No county money shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or the support of any religious establishment.” That law, already part of the state constitution, was rejected by five of the council members, including McCune. In an email to constituents, Ladenburg explained that the statement “reinforces the importance of this matter and gives strength to our local laws.. Having the language in our code reinforces that responsibility.”

For now, at least one crisis has been averted.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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