AMERICAN CHURCHES HAVE long harbored suspicion of certain types of government aid.
During the 1930s, clergy worried that federal relief would supplant the churches’ role in local communities and undermine their status. Theologically, church and state often are viewed as rivals. State overreach can lead to dangerous empire, a false idol, or threats to religious freedom. Church overreach can court theocracy. The U.S. Constitution requires the government to walk a careful (and sometimes ambiguous) line between enabling religious freedom and avoiding its establishment.
Yet, in a global pandemic with concurrent economic collapse, the state is crucial in protecting public health while also delivering relief to the millions facing financial hardship as the economy grinds to a halt.