During routine business, on Tuesday December 6th, at a meeting of the Frankin County Commissioners in Ohio, they approved an arrangement that will allow an non-profit group to borrow at a lower interest rate for a $10.5 million Family Life Center. The center will house recreational space, counseling services and child care.
The non-profit group? The New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus.
The church will finance the project through the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, but county commissioners’ approval was needed. Ohio state law allows an airport or port authority to loan money for development that is not necessarily related or attached to the airport or port.
A social project to help the community seems like a worthy project for tax payer support and the church’s leadership and lawyer stressed the new center wouldn’t be used for services. Traditionally, government has funded social projects by religious groups as long as they refrained from using the money for converting people or preaching to them.
Personally I am against any direct funding of religious groups for whatever reason. Doing so is only trying to get around the separation of church and state.
It really makes it difficult to justify tax funds going to The New Salem Missionary Baptist Church because of another item also mentioned in the same Columbus Dispatch article that announced the Commissioner’s vote (Church gets county OK for project financing 12/07/05). The church plans on spending $30 million of its own money for a sanctuary and other facilities, expanding to 200,000 square feet.
Public money going to wealthy churches is not just a church vs. state issue but also one of ethics. In most cases the amount people donate to churches and religious groups is more than they collectively pay in taxes.
According to the annual Giving USA report, compiled by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, donations to churches and other religious organizations increased 2% to $88 billion in 2004. Those donations excluded money given to churches for social work and is 3 times what the state of California will take in this year ($30 billion)!!! All of it tax free.
The state of Ohio takes in about $1.5 billion a month while US churches and religious institutions take in more than $7 billion a month.
So The New Salem Missionary Baptist Church will get its $10 million meanwhile the State of Ohio had to refuse $25 million in Medicaid funding for mentally retarded and disabled Ohioans because the state can’t come up with its 40% in matching funds (State refuses Medicaid money, Columbus Dispatch, 12/09/05) due to budget cuts.
The new Family Life Center might be able to help a few hundred people while approximately 2,000 disabled children and adults may have to be sent to extended care facilities if they are to get any treatment at all.
It is a shame when people donate more money to churches than they pay in taxes yet complain that churches and other religious groups should get more tax payer money to do what the government should be doing. Real people with real problems get hurt.