American Catholic Churches received roughly $1.4 billion dollars in government bailout money as part of . Megachurches like Chicago’s Willow Creek and Harvest Bible Chapel, First Baptist Church of Dallas, and Life.church from Oklahoma all received millions of dollars. Televangelists like Joyce Meyer, Jim Bakker, and Jimmy Swaggart also received federal money.
Theologically, I have issues with churches taking federal loans for several reasons. It sets a bad precedent. I don’t think a church should depend on federal money to operate. Yes, this is an extreme situation and all sorts of private businesses also received loan money to help protect employees. Churches should have some money already in savings for an emergency situation. Also, people were still able to financially give money to their churches during the pandemic. But this is also the fault of the government for making loan money available to churches. Of course there would be churches who would take the money.
Over 10,000 churches and religious organizations received funds in the paycheck protection program.
Some of the Catholic dioceses who are receiving money had previously had to pay out settlements in the wake of sexual abuse scandals. Churches like Willow Creek and Harvest have both been rocked by scandals as Willow’s pastor stepped down amid sexual misconduct allegations in 2018 and Harvest fired their pastor in 2019 in the wake of vitriolic comments coming to light when he was already on leave due to various allegations of ministerial abuses. For those churches, it strikes me similarly to bankrupt states wanting federal bailouts for issues that existed long before covid.
For televangelists who received money, many of them live lavishly. Jim Bakker who went to prison for fraud associated with his ministry in the 1980s was sued earlier during the Coronavirus outbreak for selling a bogus “cure” for the disease. His church took hundreds of thousands in loan money. Televangelist Joyce Meyer is worth millions of dollars and her ministry reported having $12 million at the end of last year but received between $5-10 million in the federal loan. Again, I blame the government for giving that money just as much as I blame these huge ministries for receiving it.
Yes, it should be understood that the vast majority of churches who received money are not megachurches and do not have scandals. I have no doubt that some really were in need of help.
But I also feel like this undermines the spiritual issues of churches and funding. If a church cannot afford to operate, either their members are not supporting the ministry of the church, which is an issue a church needs to address; or it means that a church is trying to do too many things. But the answer should not be federal loan programs, pandemic or not.
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