North Texas Daily

Megachurches should not get federal loans

Megachurches should not get federal loans

Megachurches should not get federal loans
July 26
10:00 2020

During the coronavirus pandemic, businesses have struggled to stay alive and millions of people have lost their jobs. To provide relief during this difficult time, the government created a 2 trillion-dollar stimulus package called the CARES Act. The Paycheck Protection Program loan was included in the stimulus package to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations pay employees, pay rent and pay other bills. The PPP loan is forgivable and doesn’t have to be paid back.

Unfortunately, multi-million-dollar megachurches have taken advantage of the PPP loans by taking money that could have saved struggling businesses. Megachurches and other religious organizations have received $7.3 billion in federal loans. The loans included in the stimulus package were meant for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Megachurches claim to be nonprofit organizations, which protects them from paying taxes and gives them an opportunity to hoard wealth without doing anything real to help their community. One example is the First Baptist Church of Dallas, which set a two-year fundraising goal of $82 million in 2018. The money was designated for a two-story expansion to a building as well as their radio station, mission trips and various other church activities. So far, they’ve managed to raise $45 million since 2018.

Fast-forward two years later to 2020 and the megachurch collects a PPP loan worth $2 million to $5 million from the federal government. If they can raise $45 million on their own, they don’t need a federal loan to help them during a global pandemic. Multiple small businesses could have been saved with $2 million, but instead, it was given to a corporation hiding under section 501(c)(3). In my opinion, megachurches are worse than corporations because they claim to give something back to their community, but their entire goal is to force their religion onto others and “fundraise” millions.

The senior pastor at First Baptist Dallas, Robert Jeffress has been requesting additional donations since receiving the PPP loan. He begged for $575,000 in June to fund the church’s radio, internet and television ministries. I guess $45 million dollars in donations and a federal loan aren’t enough for him. The greed doesn’t end there, Jeffress uses the church to sell his 26 books, many DVDs and other merchandise. Somehow, the megachurch is still considered a nonprofit organization even though it’s clearly generating a ton of tax less revenue.

Countless businesses have permanently shut down during the pandemic due to financial problems. The PPP loans could have saved businesses like the iconic Highland Park Cafeteria in Dallas, which closed permanently during the pandemic after being open for 95 years. After eight years in business, the restaurant “Start,” which offered fresh and healthy fast food, closed indefinitely due to a drop in sales revenue. Popular Dallas music venue, Lizard Lounge, closed for good as well.

Not only are the loans unnecessary for megachurches, they clearly violate the separation of church and state. Current SBA restrictions don’t permit federal loans for nonprofit organizations or religious institutions. Providing megachurches and other religious institutions with PPP loans contradicts these restrictions and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The federal government cannot legally favor evangelists and provide them with federal tax dollars. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration doesn’t respect the constitution and they have acted in favor of evangelical Christians throughout Trump’s presidency.

Personally, I believe all religious institutions should be required to pay back the PPP loans. The current restrictions against providing federal loans to religious institutions should be honored and Trump should face harsh consequences for abusing his power.

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Shelby Stevens

Shelby Stevens

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