While I believe in the principle of church-state separation, there are times when it is taken too far. Today’s example is a food pantry in Seymour, IN. After someone completes the application form for assistance, the volunteer assisting her asks: "Is there anything that you would like us to pray with you about?" Some say yes, and the volunteer prays with them; others decline. As the founder of the organization, Paul Brock put it, "We still give food to people, even when they say they don't want to pray."
But when an inspection revealed this practice, officials from the state Department of Health decided it was a violation of federal guidelines and suspended food provided through the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program. It seems they thought praying before the recipient had actually received the food was unacceptable. So, the pantry and the state have apparently come to a compromise - make the offer to pray after recipients receive their food, instead of before. Brock says he can live with that.
All good, but it seems to me that as long as the offer to pray is simply an offer, which can be accepted or declined, whether it’s before the food is received or after is irrelevant.
Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor for Sojourners.
(Photo by Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock)