Pence upends Constitution to favor Christian groups abroad

Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence has been subverting the U.S. Constitution in diverting foreign aid to overseas Christian organizations, asserts the Freedom From Religion Foundation in a strongly worded letter.

FFFRF fired off the missive to Pence following a recent ProPublica exposé revealing that the vice president has been personally working to funnel aid money through the official USAID agency to “favored Christian groups.” He also reportedly threatened the jobs of USAID staff who resisted his attempts. At least one person was fired — “Penced,” as she put it — for failing to immediately implement the “administration’s vision” to direct public funds to such outfits, according to the article.

The merit and effectiveness of the organizations on the ground should guide these decisions, not a shared religious affinity or a desire to appeal to a political base, FFRF points out to Pence. In fact, injecting religion into the government decision-making process is unconstitutional.

“The Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Trinity Lutheran involved a neutrally scored, generally available grant program with multiple applicants and no indication that any applicant received favored treatment, so the court held that churches could apply,” FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel writes to the vice president. “You have violated the inverse of that rule, extending favored treatment to organizations that share your religion. Rather than ‘express discrimination based on religious identity,’ you opted for express favoritism based on religious identity, which is equally unconstitutional.”

Pence’s operating rule, FFRF contends, seems to be: “My church will be favored, others need not apply.”

Even the appearance of rewarding groups espousing the vice president’s religion with millions of dollars in foreign aid is constitutionally problematic, FFRF adds. That’s why FFRF is urging that all grants to the Christian organizations that Pence singled out for favoritism must be rescinded.

“The length to which Mike Pence has gone to bestow largesse on members of a particular religious community is deeply dismaying,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It shows how a Christian Nationalist mindset is directing policy in this administration on all fronts.”

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 members across the country. FFRF works to protect the constitutional separation between state and church, educates about nontheism, and has helped rescue atheists and nonbelievers persecuted abroad.

Photo by Mark Reinstein

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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