The Freedom From Religion Foundation is condemning Vice President Mike Pence’s call to the American people to shower churches with their generosity.
At a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing on Saturday, March 21, the vice president told Americans that if they don’t attend a church service due to the global pandemic, they should still “go ahead and make that donation.” He said that this plea was something “the president and I promised” to make and explained that “all ministries are continuing to play a vital role in our communities and we encourage your continued support.”
No American government official — especially the president and vice president — should lend the power and prestige of their office to a particular church or to religion in general, FFRF emphasizes. Leveraging a global pandemic to drum up church donations is an egregious betrayal of the country’s founding principles in order to benefit religion.
“The Founders recognized the danger of aligning government with religion, which is why our founding documents specifically separate the two,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Pence. “In modern times, the Supreme Court has expressed this principle by stating that the government must not appear to ‘endorse’ religion. There is scarcely a clearer endorsement than a direct solicitation for donations.”
Such an appeal is increasingly out of step with American society, FFRF points out. Currently, more than one-fourth of Americans are religiously unaffiliated. In his personal capacity, Pence is welcome to donate to the church of his choice, but as vice president, his official recommendation to promote religion alienates this vast group of nonreligious Americans.
Americans are fiercely struggling with the effects of the coronavirus, from falling dangerously ill to losing jobs and being stuck at home to care for family members. Fortunately, we live in a time when such a severe virus is usually not lethal due to medical progress. FFRF stresses that this is because of science and reason, not religion. Nowhere in the bible, or any other “holy book,” will a person find instructions for developing vaccines, building ventilators, or creating an online delivery service for food and other essentials.
That’s why the vice president should not further encourage Americans to give their money to those who least deserve it. Instead, Pence should exhort Americans to help where help is needed, since there are myriad secular charities well positioned to alleviate the suffering of Americans. Money donated to churches is deflected from the organizations that can make a real difference.
When the vice president was named as the head of the Coronavirus Task Force, the choice was roundly ridiculed because of his history of religious zealotry and science denial. True to form, he immediately held a prayer session that did nothing to stop the spread of the virus. FFRF is urging the president to learn from his mistakes and work to provide real-world relief rather than perpetuating useless support for religion.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members across the country. It protects the constitutional separation between state and church and educates about nontheism.
Photo via Shuttestock by Mark Reinstein