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.


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.

  • Jaynee

    Glad it got removed, but his reasoning for removing it was more to keep council members from taking “any pressure”: Councilmember Jim McCune (R) – “This is my amendment, and at this time I am shifting–but reluctantly shifting the money just so the council doesn’t take any pressure–it was all my doing, and under the First amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, it’s okay. You all here benefit from that right–religious freedom – to make no law against establishment of religion–don’t forget the “no”–or the free exercise thereof, and under the federal constitution, the free exercise is alright. Now I realize we have a difference of opinion, and I respect your opinion, highly–all your opinions, but this has to be under constitutional law, equal access to all groups. Because principles are taught by secular people, atheist people, Buddhist people, and Christian people. And so we have equal access all the way around–and case law proves that over and over and over. I’m not a lawyer, but I get legal counsel, and I got some good lawyers, and I take their counsel. So, but I’m pulling this so I don’t want to have my fellow councilmembers being disrupted, and that’s the basic reason why I’m pulling it, and you may one day see it back, you may not, but under legal precedence, I’m going to do some case law work in the next year, and then we’ll see what happens. But I appreciate all your comments. I respect everything you say, but you probably need to look into the original intent of the constitution, and not the version that you see, ’cause if you go to the foundation of our country, and all written documents–congressional written papers, early you won’t see separation of church ans state in any document in this county whatsoever–none, they never used it, they were against it. So I forge(?) you to go ahead–go back in history, go back to congressional record, and look it up for yourself like I have. I don’t go outside congressional records, or Washington State records–I use–everything is documented, so anyways, I appreciate your comments and I am removing this reluctantly, and I hope the council will pass it.”

    Link to the full video:

  • Dr. Zoltar

    “[B]ut you probably need to look into the original intent of the constitution, and not the version that you see, ’cause if you go to the foundation of our country, and all written documents–congressional written papers, early you won’t see separation of church ans state in any document in this county whatsoever–none, they never used it, they were against it.”

    This really bugs me. He’s basically saying ignore what’s actually written in the Constitution and go with what he thinks they meant to say. Because our founding fathers accidentally left out words like “God”, “Jesus”, and “Christianity” from the document our government is based on.

    Also, I’d love someone to use this argument against him when it comes to debating the 2nd Amendment. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Jim Sherman

    I watched you video. I agree with you on just about everything. you must talk to a lot of stupid Christians.
    -morality is a function of civilization and personal choice, but not religion
    -emotional emptiness is not a function of a belief in no god. how silly.
    -how can an atheist be mad at god anymore than an adult be mad at Santa
    -what if you are wrong about god? why would a Christian care? most every Christian would not care even if they say they do. their only care is that they think they will have a bigger reward in heaven. most Christian evangelism are self serving. in the end, who really cares? after all, it is a personal choice which everyone has the right to make for them selves.
    -you just have to have faith. what a stupid Christian comment! everybody has faith except the agnostic who is noncommittal. the existence of god or gods cannot be intellectually proven or disproven. every opinion must have faith.
    I am not going through each one of your comments, but I agree with all of them except one. most Christians are prideful. they think they are better than the rest and smarter. many people that believe in god have not taken the time to search and believe on there own accord. most people cannot verbalize there own beliefs in detail because they have not thought about it in depth.
    if a person is 100% certain about his belief than why debate? nothing can be changed. if a person is not 100% certain than they should pray: Jesus if you exist than prove it to me. or Buda if you exist than prove it to me. Muhammad, god of stone & fortress or earth, Zeus, etc.
    for it is up to god to prove it to us that he exists. even Christians claim that all faith comes from god. we do not create our own faith.
    if we have faith of an atheist and we pray to god “give me faith” and nothing happens than it is god’s will that we should remain atheists. (that is, if god exists.) but this I know for sure, no evangelist can ever change the belief or impart faith to a person firmly decided.
    if you want to return my comment, I am at

  • Baby_Raptor

    He’s probably never even read the papers he’s referencing. Too many big words and lots of grandiose sounding language.

    No, he’s parroting shit from the likes of David Barton. Barton is a man of god, after all, and he says stuff that Senior Godbot already wants to believe. So why not believe it?

  • Rain

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

    At least he didn’t say it’s a book not a religion. Cheesy fallacies like that are not unheard of in religious circles. Example: It’s a way of life not a religion. (Obviously it can be both things at the same time.) I’m glad he caught himself just short of going the cheesy fallacy route lol.

  • Abbé Faria

    This is where the neo-cons win. They put fundamentalist in the school.boards and the city councils in order to change the system from the bottom and up.

  • FarmerDave

    I don’t understand why Young Life got money at all. Last year they sold a parcel on Anderson Island for $1.8M, they should be rolling in cash. How does a measly $15K matter?

  • Holytape

    Have you seen Jesus home decoration budget? Pearl Gates. Gold Paved Roads. That kind of bling ain’t cheap.

  • Kathy
  • aoscott

    I’m familiar with Young Life, they had a presence at my high school. They should not receive funding at all, they are a wicked organization.

  • Chelsea Fletcher

    I am a constituent of Councilmember McCune and attended the meeting on Tuesday afternoon. Though I didn’t say anything in the meeting, I was interviewed by KING5 news and expressed my disappointment. I have plans to write a letter to Councilmember McCune expressing my severe disappointment in him as an elected official who is supposed to represent me and everyone else in Pierce County’s 3rd District; this letter may also be submitted to the The News Tribune (Pierce County/Tacoma’s local paper) in hopes of getting a spot in the “Community Columnists” section of the Opinion section. I am also seriously considering running against him in 2016, as I suspect this situation with the budget and CEF is only one example of Councilmember McCune’s poor judgement in governance.

  • Oranje

    And that’s why I’m now on my local city council. You’re exactly right.