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AMONG places of worship in  the US that received between $6 to $10 billion of taxpayers’ cash due to COVID-19 lock-downs in America was the First Baptist Church of Dallas, led by Trump-loving multi-millionaire Robert Jeffress, above, whose net worth is $17-m.

His church, which hosted Bible-thumping Vice President Mike Pence at a rally at the end of June, was approved for a forgivable loan worth $2 million to $5 million by the Trump administration.

The extent of the bail-out to churches, which were a major source of COVID-19 infections in America, was revealed in long-awaited government data released yesterday (Monday).

American Atheists are appalled, saying that cash award to churches under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) run by the Small Business Administration (SBA) was “unconstitutional.”

AA identified a minimum of between $3.5 and $7 billion in forgivable loans of $150,000 or more that have gone to specific houses of worship.

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Said Alison Gill, above, Vice President of Legal and Policy at American Atheists:

The Trump Administration’s decision to only release broad ranges of loan amounts makes it difficult to be more precise. For houses of worship receiving loans of less than $150,000, American Atheists found that they were awarded at least $2.7 billion, putting the church bailout total at between an estimated $6.2 and $9.7 billion at a minimum.

While funds awarded under PPP are structured as loans, the fact that they are 100% forgivable makes these payments, in effect, grants to the funded businesses and organizations.

She added:

Americans have a right to know exactly how much of their tax dollars are unconstitutionally propping up churches, and the Trump Administration cannot be allowed to leave Americans in the dark. American Atheists will continue to demand full transparency,

In addition, American Atheists estimated that another $4 to $8 billion of taxpayer money has gone to private schools, most of which are religious.

Said Nick Fish, AA’s President:

In two months, the Trump Administration has given churches and religious schools more money than double the CDC’s annual budget of $6.5 billion. If that doesn’t make it crystal clear what this administration’s priorities are, nothing will.

Among the other 19 religious organisations that received massive cash injections was Oklahoma-based Life Church Operations LLC. Its pastor Bobby Gruenewald said in response to Reuters questions that he was grateful that churches were able to qualify for the loans, but did not say how much his church got or whether it will seek loan forgiveness.

Also in the $5 million-$10 million bracket were the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino, California, which has publicly acknowledged its role in a decades-old sexual abuse scandal, and Willow Creek Community Church Inc. in Illinois.

In 2018, the Chicago Tribune, citing court records, reported that Willow Creek paid $3.25 million to settle lawsuits alleging a church volunteer sexually abused children. Willow Creek did not respond immediately to request for comment.

A spokesman for San Bernardino diocese said its entities received about $8.5 million which were used to pay staff wages and utility costs, and that the diocese expects to seek loan forgiveness.

• If you wish to report any typos/incorrect info in this piece, please email me at barry@freethinker.co.uk

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