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Another Very Bad Idea

Alan Cooperman of The Washington Post reports Wednesday that the federal government will pay for the rebuilding of “parochial schools, nursing homes and similar religious institutions,” but not for the rebuilding of church buildings used for worship.

How is that supposed to work? It’s undeniably true that religious groups lost hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property and buildings, but do we really expect the government to use tax monies to rebuild religious institutions?

Cooperman lists Roman Catholics (especially the Archdiocese of New Orleans) and the Southern Baptist Convention as the groups suffering the greatest damage to facilities.

H. James Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, told reporters that the funds would go to “essential, government-type facilities,” but he identified parochial schools as explicitly included.

“I just want to make it clear that any facility that’s used primarily for inherently religious activities is not going to be covered,” Towey told the reporters.

Well, here’s one Southern Baptist who sincerely hopes that every one of our buildings is used for “inherently religious activities.” This looks like a genuinely bad idea. Government money means government entanglement. Who will decide what constitutes “inherently religious activities?”

As The Baptist Faith & Message, the Southern Baptist Convention’s confession of faith, states: The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Further: The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work.