by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor, John Locke Foundation
Three news items this week have a common theme. First, from Phoenix:
Dana Crow-Smith tells ABC 15 she was passing out water bottles in the 112-degree heat along with others in an attempt to share their Christian beliefs with people attending a festival downtown last month, when a city worker ordered them to stop. She said the worker told the group they would be cited if they continued passing out the water because they did not have a permit.
"It was really hot and yeah we wanted to show God’s love and a small act of kindness is a great way to do that without shoving it down someone’s throat," Crow-Smith told ABC 15.
Across the country in Chester, Pennsylvania:
A southeastern Pennsylvania woman who hands out free lunch boxes to children in her neighborhood, won’t be fined but has to apply for a zoning variance to continue her program next summer.
Church youth director Angela Prattis says she had run the meal program from her church for three years before she began feeding about 60 kids in front of her Delaware County home this summer after having a baby. The boxed lunches are dropped off at her house by the Archdioses of Philadelphia and are funded by the state. The church says about 450 people hand out food from homes or churches in the Philadelphia area.
Officials in Chester Township initially threatened Prattis with fines of $600 per day, but she says they withdrew the fines after news organizations began asking questions.
A Wisconsin-based group has accused a Georgia high school football coach of violating the First Amendment by allowing local churches to prepare meals for his team.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the superintendent of Walker County Schools demanding an "immediate investigation" into Ridgeland High School football coach Mark Mariakis.
The FFRF is a Wisconsin-based group whose purpose is to "protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church."
They are demanding the school system launch an investigation into allegations that Coach Mariakis allowed local churches to prepare pre-game meals for his football team. They also allege that the coach prayed with his team, used Bible verses in motivational speeches and on team shirts and participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
"Taking public school football teams to church, even for a meal, is unconstitutional," wrote FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel. "This program is an egregious violation of the Establishment Clause and must cease immediately."
Since when has it become government’s business to dictate who gives food and water? All three stories — all from this week — involve Christians giving food and drink to those in need and someone seeking to use government to stop them.
There is a distinct undercurrent here that charity is only acceptable when it is government charity bestowed by government agents. (The lunches in Chester are from a federal program, but the food is trucked in by the Archdioses, a nearby church donates the folding chairs and tables, and a church youth director serves.) It’s regrettably well in keeping with the regnant ideology in America. The statist left wants the government to require volunteering, discourage private charity (which they themselves eschew), road-block private purchase of health insurance so that everyone must seek the government plan, etc. ad nauseam. This constant drive to stifle private initiative and yes, even charitable, voluntary behavior is interrupted only during election campaigns for leftist politicians to decry Americans "not doing enough."
To these ideologues, the idea of Christian charity is a device, an emotional hook to promote Christian support for government charity, and nothing more. Jesus holds a rhetoric usefulness to them akin to the legend of Robin Hood — useful in a fleeting impression, not in the whole story. E.g., Robin Hood is remembered because he "stole from the rich and gave to the poor," not that he stole back from a corrupt, tax-hiking, criminal government.
Just so, you might see them argue, e.g., that Jesus wouldn’t cut government aid to the poor or that Jesus’s teaching supports tax increases on the rich. In the meantime, they are offended by voluntary Christian charity in their community and want the government to stop it.
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