Monday, September 25, 2006

Laundering Tax Money for Select Oklahoma Churches

Wanda Jo (Peltier) Stapleton, widow of a Southern Baptist minister and an Oklahoma State Representative from 1986-1996, has uncovered the money trail from the Oklahoma State Legislature to select churches. In an essay on "Pulpit Politics: Courtesy Your Tax Dollars" she reveals the secret process by which money is distributed to churches in Oklahoma. Here's a quote:
This funding process is so clever that many of our most honorable representatives have no idea what their votes to fund "economic and community development," for example, end up financing. The twisting paper trail is hard to follow. The funding approval usually travels through the Departments of Commerce or Agriculture. Then it goes to one or more of the state's eleven sub-state planning districts before the money gets to "the special project."

For one example in Oklahoma County: since 2003, state tax dollars totaling $109,000.00 have gone to benefit "special projects" of churches. Even more money has possibly gone to other churches throughout the state.
There's no doubt that secret slush funds of tax money for churches violates the original intent of James Madison, the author of our nation's Constitution and of the Bill of Rights. Madison wrote:

Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?
There's also no doubt that secret slush funds of tax money for churches violates the crystal clear prohibitions of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma:

Section II-5: Public Money or Property -- Use for Sectarian Purposes.

"No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such."
Undoubtedly, that is why the slush fund of tax money for churches was secret.

It's not a secret any more. I think it is time for an Oklahoma court to determine whether these "special projects" pass constitutional muster.

4 comments:

Jim Paslay said...

Bruce,

I would expect you to come up with a title like that. I read Wanda's article and I can't any specifics in there about which churches benefitted from the state's coffer. If you or Wanda is going to make allegations like this, you need to back it up with facts and not a bunch of rhetoric!

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Jim,

Here are a couple links:

Special Project Money Queried DOK June 23, 2006.

State Legislature Secures $36,000 to Help Needy Adults, At-Risk Children in South OKC OK State House News

You'll have to spend some money to read the archived article in the Daily Oklahoman.

Jeff the Baptist said...

Delaware had issues with this in the past as well. In our case state urban development and highway money were used for church construction projects and paving their parking lots. It seems that city, county, and state politicos were paying their campaign debts to various congregations using public funds.

foxofbama said...

Bruce: What do you make of the recent major money coming to CBF of Alabama's Sowing Seeds of Hope, to the tune of 300 thou plus dollars. Are Artur Davis, one of the brightest US congressman to come from Alabama in some time wrong to be party to this.
Hoping to see you at Emory October 9-11 for the major confab on religion and politics.
do check the discussion on Truett Cathy at www.baptistlife.com and check out this conference at www.emory.edu Candler Theology school