Faith-Based Earmarks

In September, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Sen. David Vitter inserted an earmark into the federal budget to provide $100,000 to the Louisiana Family Forum, a Focus on the Family affiliate, apparently for the purpose of combating the teaching of evolution and global warming in public schools. Now the Kansas City Star is raising questions about whether earmarks from Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and Kit Bond (R-Missouri) are going to religious purposes:

Sens. Sam Brownback and Kit Bond used earmarks last year to direct about $1 million to an area group “empowering the un-churched urban poor for the kingdom of Christ.”

On the surface, the taxpayer-supported appropriations for World Impact Inc. raise constitutional questions about the separation of church and state.

… Brownback, a Kansas Republican, and Bond, a Missouri Republican, note that World Impact does a lot of good for the urban poor in the region, with wanting to create an outreach and education center in St. Louis and running a ranch in central Kansas that is used as a “Christian training center for inner-city young men ages 18-25.”

World Impact operates programs in several other states and received nearly $2 million in earmarks in the 2008 spending bill, according to a report last fall in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

While recent rule changes have made the earmarking process a little more open, there is still far less scrutiny than to budget items that have been debated or the Bush administration’s own faith-based efforts. Still, the president of the World Impact charity assures us that “We are faith-based, but federal funds will be kept separate from our faith programs.”