Should Churches Use Taxpayer Money?

Should Churches Use Taxpayer Money? August 23, 2011

In 2001, President Bush established an office within the White House called the “White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives” or OFBCI for short.  Now called the “White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships” (renamed by President Obama), the basic idea behind the faith based initiative is to provide federal dollars to social services organizations (both church-based and secular) in order to help serve the needs of local communities.

According to President Obama, the faith based initiative “will be a resource for nonprofits and community organization, both secular and faith based, looking for ways to make a bigger impact in their communities, learn their obligations under the law, cut through red tape, and make the most of what the federal government has to offer.”

If this is your first time hearing about the program, you may be thinking one of two things:

That sounds like pretty good program.  Providing churches and community organizations with funding to reach out to the community can do a lot of good.


What on earth is the government doing by distributing taxpayer money to churches and other community organizations? 

To quote one of my favorite economists, Thomas Sowell, “Economic policies need to be analyzed in terms of the incentives they create, rather than the hopes that inspired them.”  No matter how well intended a program may be, there will always be opposition because of the incentives that stem from the policy.

While we may be hard-pressed to find someone who is completely against helping those in need, it’s easy to find people who do not support faith based initiatives.  Those who oppose the provision of government funds for faith based organizations may argue that these groups will still try to spiritually influence those in need of the social assistance.

The biggest question is this:  Should taxpayer dollars be used to support religious organizations?  Many people argue that federal money shouldn’t be used by religious organizations regardless of the well intentions of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has defined a set of guidelines for churches and organizations receiving funding as outlined below:

  • The organization may not use government funds to support religious activities such as: prayer, worship, religious teaching, or proselytizing.
  • Any religious activities offered by the faith based organization must be offered separately from the government funded activities.
  • The faith based organizations cannot discriminate on the basis of religion as they provide their services.

I personally feel that the church shouldn’t have to rely on taxpayer dollars to provide outreach to the community.  We as Christians are called to meet the physical needs of our community as well as share the message of hope that is in Christ.  Through the generosity of those in the church, I think that we should be able to meet the needs of our community without relying on federal assistance to do so.  It takes a committed congregation of generous people to create change like this – but I’ll save that discussion for another article.

I would love to hear your opinion on this issue.  Do you think that it’s wrong for churches to receive federal money to meet the  (non-spiritual) needs of the community?

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  • Totally agree, Tim. Even from a strict separation of church and state stance this is not a good policy. And from a religious perspective, if the church is not “proselytizing” then what is it doing. We ought to always be doing things which are converting people’s opinions and beliefs so they want to follow Jesus. This may not look exactly like what we think is “evangelism”, but everything we do should be pointing toward Christ. Hard to imagine doing any kind of work where we are not letting Christ shine through in some way – which would totally eliminate all possibilities of using this tax money!

    • Tim

      Always love to hear your thoughts Paul! I agree – if the church is trying to minister and share the Gospel, they shouldn’t depend on taxpayer money. It would be tough to clearly draw a line in ministry work and outreach work with no ministry intent, so I’d rather just see churches gain financial support from its members.

  • Agree… while I love the idea of receiving any money to refocus it for noble purposes, this seems to be a little dangerous. What the church needs is to remember their social responsibilities and meet those with grace and generous living.

    • Tim

      Well said Doc!

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  • My parents’ church get some grant money for participating in community programs, and I know that the big concern lingering on some people’s minds is whether or not the church leadership has been catering to state regulations in order to continue to receive funds.

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  • Ian Wolfe

    When the disciples asked Jesus if it was proper for them to pay taxes or tribute to Caesar, Jesus replied something to the effect of give unto Caesar that which is Caesars. I’m pretty sure if the scenario was flipped as discussed in this article where Caesar is offering the Church funds on a very conditional and neutered basis that Jesus would not approve of it’s deceptive and lukewarm reach into his Church Body much less receiving large funds from an anti-faith institution. I believe the Church would become much more honest and wholesome without Government incentives. Also not a fan of the conditional tax free status Churches enjoy. I need to do more research into the subject but I’m pretty sure there are compromises in scripture demanded and discerning Christians/Pastors will surely not be able to use the pulpit to expose works of darkness as we are commanded to. The pervasive occult and wickedness that surrounds every aspect of our lives including government, media/music/news, our schools and to be completely honest many of our churches are corrupted my double-minded Masonic men and kabbalistic wolves who steer our government/culture/church towards that which is desired by the anti-christ. With so much deceptive influence and governmental strings upon Christ’s Church/Body it’s no wonder we are approaching the final chapter so expediently. Hopefully some more will awaken(I’m sure they will) so that at least a remnant may be pulled out of our increasingly wicked generation.