Let Interfaith Spend Own Funds

Let Interfaith Council spend own funds, not taxpayers

Wednesday, November 13, 1996

By John D. Arnold

When Pima County Interfaith Council's religious backers brag in the press  about getting their churches directly involved in politics and full government  participation, they had best pray that the Internal Revenue Service is not  getting their message. Furthermore, PCIC's agenda ignores II Timothy 4:1-5, that  clearly states the church's mission is to "Preach the gospel, and do the work of  an Evangelist."

The PCIC agenda, which demands a $10 million dollar government grant for a  Family Development Fund to further its church values, is clearly in violation of  Scripture and the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that guarantees  separation of church and state.

Any attempt on the part of PCIC to receive taxpayers' money will undoubtably  be challenged in the courts. If PCIC would adhere to Luke 12:33-34, which  clearly outlines the Christian Churches' role in helping the poor "Sell what you  have and give alms," they would not be at the table demanding government funds.  Furthermore, is it not customary if you sit down at a table in a restaurant that  you pay for what you consume?

PCIC wants someone else to pay the tab, mainly the taxpayer. Hopefully when  they have their Economic Summit next year, they will bring their churches'  resources to the table to pay the tab.

Bottom Line: If some churches support the PCIC's agenda, let them-not the  taxpayer- fully fund PCIC, as they have plenty of tax-free assets.

The real danger involved with the PCIC agenda is that it brings to the table  the issue of taxation on the hundreds of billions of dollars of tax-exempt  church property and tens of billions of estimated untaxed church offerings  collected each year. PCIC's backers should heed the stern warnings by Stephen V.  Monsma's book, "When Sacred & Secular Mix."

The public reaction to political agendas and government entanglements by  churches has been to revoke their tax exempt status and force churches to pay  their fair share. For example, the State of Colorado recently had a proposition  on the ballot to amend the State Constitution to do just that. If PCIC persists  with its government entanglements and politics, it could happen here too.

Many local service providers are amazed that PCIC has just discovered that  poverty exists in Tucson. These same organizations, urban and rural, have been  waging the War on Poverty since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's.

They ask: Where was PCIC when we fought with our lives for justice, equality,  economic development, legal services, fair housing, against segregation, for  civil rights, senior services, behavioral health, community action, nutrition,  health, infant care, ending school segregation, for handicapped services,  affirmative action, against discrimination, for education, bilingual programs,  and a whole host of other programs that have liberated millions from poverty?  All this was accomplished by local leadership without bringing in expensive  consultants from California as PCIC demands.

Having been a man of the cloth, I cringe when I hear about trucks from back  East driving up to our churches and unloading voter ballot guides, which are, at  best, slanted to support religious values. According to news accounts, the IRS  has been also reading these voter guides and may revoke the tax exempt status of  its Christian Coalition authors.

Ironically those voter guides that these churches passed out produced the  "Contract on America" by a Congress that drastically cut back and eliminated  hundreds of the very services PCIC now says they champion. If there is to be $10  million allocated toward social services, which we support, it would be a good  restitution to local service providers to restore their service levels and meet  the growing demands of the new poor caused by Welfare Reform.

Furthermore, the Arizona Rural Human Services Network (ARHSN) leadership  claims PCIC's name is a misnomer as they do not represent rural Pima County.  Neither has PCIC bothered coming to our table. ARHSN cites that rural poverty  issues are much different and that they are 20 years behind in services to those  of their urban counterparts.

As for PCIC's statement that the Mayor and local politicians gave unanimous  support during their recent Political Convocation to its "iron rule" agenda,  they may be mistaken. In reality, PCIC organizers had ushers in the isles to  orchestrate boos from the crowd to intimidate anyone who did not agree with  them. Furthermore, PCIC organizers effectively prevented anyone with differing  points of view to speak. Issues such as the PCIC agenda which is divisive,  duplicating existing services, and disruptive to present providers' efforts to  serve the poor were never heard. Of most concern, was that PCIC has no track  record or accountability for the funds it receives.

Finally, the best we can hope for is that the churches which fund PCIC rein  in the leadership before it's too late and make them accountable for the money  the churches have given them. Furthermore, before releasing additional funds,  indoctrinate them in the church's scriptural role in charity that does not  jeopardize their tax-exempt status. Most of all, the Gospel's strong admonition  in Matthew 6:24, "You cannot serve two masters, God and government money."

John D. Arnold, a former pastor of 1st Southern Baptist Church in  Catalina, has been chief executive officer since 1967 of PPEP Inc., a rural  human services provider