By Tom Gjelten
In a development that could challenge the Constitution’s prohibition of any law “respecting an establishment of religion,” the federal government will soon provide money directly to U.S. churches to help them pay pastor salaries and utility bills.
A key part of the $2 trillion economic relief legislation enacted last month includes about $350 billion for the Small Business Administration to extend loans to small businesses facing financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus shutdown orders. Churches and other faith-based organizations, classified as “businesses,” qualify for aid under the program, even if they have an exclusively religious orientation.
“Faith-based organizations are eligible to receive SBA loans regardless of whether they provide secular social services,” the SBA said in a statement. “No otherwise eligible organization will be disqualified from receiving a loan because of the religious nature, religious identity, or religious speech of the organization.”
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