By Tom Flynn
In “Oklahomans should vote yes on SQ 790” (Our Views, Oct. 23), The Oklahoman showed a flawed understanding of the effect of public funding on religious institutions. “SQ 790 opponents claim it will facilitate taxpayer funding for proselytizing,” the editorial declared. “Not true. That will remain illegal (and no one is proposing taxpayer funding for missionaries anyway).”
“Proselytizing” means much more than sending missionaries. If church-affiliated social service agencies compel beneficiaries of their services to listen to a sermon before receiving services, that’s proselytization. If a church has the money to expand religious programming precisely because public funding has relieved it of the need to fund the cost of its social programs, that equates to proselytization too. Money is fungible, so any grant of public funding for social service programs makes more money available for religious purposes even if the dollars received from government are spent entirely on eligible social services.
Moreover, if a given church chooses to violate that rule, detection can be very difficult, given that churches are the only variety of nonprofit organization not required to account publicly for their finances.
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