A Principled Stand Re: The Paycheck Protection Program

I want to let you know about and celebrate a particular decision that our Trustees at FBCR have made. You should know that minutes of all Trustees and Church Council Meetings are available for review at any time, but in this instance I wanted to make a special effort to draw your awareness to this important decision.

You are doubtless aware that the United States Government took unprecedented action recently to bolster the economy during the ongoing pandemic. This stimulus will provide essential help to countless individuals and businesses. One particular portion of this package of legislation is entitled “Paycheck Protection Program.” It offers one time loans to businesses and non-profit organizations for the purpose of maintaining payroll levels. Those organizations who receive a loan through this program and do indeed maintain their staff levels will be eligible to have the loan forgiven.

This program will support businesses and non-profits in dire times. It has been suggested thoughtfully by some that FBCR, as a non-profit, should look into availing ourselves to the so called PPP. Our Trustees have done just that – looked into every implication of our involvement. Their search found a single obvious upside: financial support for the church. There were several downsides, however. It is not entirely clear that we, as a church, are eligible and there are potential consequences to even applying for the loan if we are not eligible. Even assuming that there would be grace for our applying mistakenly there is no guarantee of our approval and even if approved, there is no guarantee for the loan to forgiven. We are far from needing to acquire debt to meet payroll. This then brings up one other downside. Even if we were able to make use of the program fully it would draw finite resources from other organizations that may be in more immediate need.

These are all good reasons to proceed with caution, but one further reason is perhaps the most historically important of all and readers savvy to Baptist and US history will have noted it from the outset. For centuries Baptists have led the way in advocating a firm division between civil government and faith communities (church and state). We have done so, because we know well the consequences of entangling the two. A state run by the church is a dangerous state for anyone who does not toe particular religious lines. A church controlled by the state yields worship driven by coercion rather than by faith. Availing ourselves to the PPP may not seem like an immediate link to a coercive state, but centuries of efforts to protect religious liberty have yielded several crucial guide points in the effort. One of those guide points has been to avoid financial entanglement between government organizations and the church.

Participating in the PPP would create a financial connection between FBCR and the US government. Doing so may not instantly decimate religious liberty, but it would move significantly against the principles used to protect it. For this reason and those mentioned above the Trustees have made an informed decision to forego participation in the Paycheck Protection Program.

It is important to note that this decision does not impede our ability to retain all staff at full compensation for the foreseeable future due to the continued faithfulness of our congregation to the financial needs of the church. Caution is due and our Trustees are keeping a close eye on all developments. For the moment and the knowable future FBCR is financially sound. For this we give thanks to God.

I want to thank the Trustees and applaud their decision to forego participation in the PPP both for the effort it took to understand all implications fully and for the principled stand it represents in our effort to support religious liberty.

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