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Secular group critical of churches taking PPP loans admits to also taking under $500K

Secular group critical of churches taking PPP loans admits to also taking under $500K

President Donald J. Trump displays his signature on H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act Friday, April 24, 2020, joined by from left to right Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration Jovita Carranza and House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in the Oval Office of the White House. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which has been critical of churches being among the recipients of forgivable loans under the federal Paycheck Protection Program, admitted that it, too, took a loan “of less than half a million dollars” after a partial list of borrowers was released this week.

“As a qualifying secular 501(c)(3) nonprofit, FFRF was eligible for and received a forgivable loan under the Paycheck Protection Program of less than half a million dollars,” the nation’s largest atheist legal organization said in a statement at the bottom of an article titled, “Churches took in billions from taxpayers during pandemic.” 

The admission by the atheist group, which has said it's “unconstitutional” for religious groups to receive taxpayer funds, came the day after the Small Business Administration released the partial list of borrowers.

SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program is intended to help small businesses and nonprofits weather coronavirus-related shutdowns, through Aug. 8.

Also on Tuesday, atheist Hemant Mehta, who writes the “Friendly Atheist” blog on Patheos, wrote that the American Humanist Association and American Atheists had also received “between $150,000 – $350,000.”

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“A larger loan of $350,000 – $1,000,000 was given to the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Center For Inquiry,” Mehta added.

In June, when FFRF asked for “all records of any taxpayer funds flowing to Trump’s most vocal Christian Nationalist supporters, including every member of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board and their churches,” it did not disclose having received a PPP loan while issuing a statement.

“There’s no transparency, no oversight, and no accountability and still our government gave your money to unaccountable organizations. It’s shocking,” said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker in the June statement. “This clearly demonstrates why Congress must remedy the irresponsible exemption of churches from information reporting laws.”

After its admission, FFRF sought to reason, “Unlike churches, FFRF discloses its finances to the government and the public by filing an annual Form 990 information return. Churches, which receive automatic tax exemption, are uniquely exempted by the Internal Revenue Service from filing financial disclosures, making them unaccountable black holes.”

While admitting that atheist groups also received PPP leans, Mehta argued, “None of that is weird; they are all nonprofits with staffs that need to be paid. For what it’s worth, those were the only ‘atheist’ groups I could find on the list, though I may have missed some.”

The SBA list of PPP borrowers also shows that about 40 Planned Parenthood affiliates were among the beneficiaries, according to Politico.

A senior administration official had earlier told The Daily Signal that Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, didn’t qualify to receive PPP loans. “While each Planned Parenthood affiliate has fewer than 500 employees, nationwide it has over 16,000 employees. So when applying PPP’s affiliation rules neutrally, it’s clear that Planned Parenthood is one large employer and not eligible for PPP money. The interim final rule made crystal clear that an organization with Planned Parenthood’s corporate structure doesn’t qualify.”

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