Acton Institute Powerblog

Does Church/State Separation Apply To Black Churches?

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Politics_Church+StateAccording to World News Daily the federal government has enlisted black church denominations to enroll people into Obamacare.

Enroll America, a Washington-based nonprofit staffed in part by ex-Obama presidential campaign workers, is leading the enrollment campaign which saw just over 100,000 people “sign up” in October. Jessica Kendall, director of outreach for Enroll America, calls the task of signing up America’s uninsured the “largest enrollment effort that has ever been done in our history.” Her group is working with a broad coalition, including hospital associations, labor unions, advocacy groups and religious organizations, to persuade people to submit to Obamacare. Enroll America’s “Health Care from the Pulpit” initiative to churches kicked off Sunday, Oct. 27, with “over 50 events across the country to further engage the faith community in education about enrollment,” according to a press release.

In the black church tradition it is not uncommon for churchgoers to be made aware of social welfare through various means, especially after the rollout for the “War on Poverty” programs. However, this development is particularly interesting because there appear to be official partnerships between the federal government and black church denominations to enroll churchgoers in Obamacare.

According to the article, Ashley Allison, the director of constituency engagement for Enroll America, said her group is encouraging churches “to put announcements in the weekly bulletin and make literature available for people to pick up at church.” Enroll America hosted one training event for African Methodist Episcopal Church leaders in Las Vegas—which seems rather odd. I cannot think of another entitlement program that would train religious leaders to facilitate enrollment in local communities. One has to wonder if the black church is becoming a de facto agency of the federal government with this level of participation in the federal program.

Obamacare is becoming spiritualized for minorities. Advocates of this church/state “partnership” are encouraging religious leaders to think of Obamacare as a particular blessing from God to minorities. According to World News Daily, Aida Giachello, a research professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said “Their faith leader can give them a reality check: God is making this Affordable Care Act available to all of them.” Ministers, she said, “can say, ‘Yes, God is in control. Yes, God is engaged in a miracle and God is providing resources through the Affordable Care Act.’”

I was unaware that the federal government declared October 25-27, 2013 the “National Weekend of Faith for the Affordable Care Act.” The National Baptist Convention, one of the largest black church denominations in America, participated in a multi-church effort holding “Health Care from the Pulpit” outreach events to educate black communities about Obamacare. Who knows how many churches actually participated, but one has to wonder what these churches were promised in return for their efforts: partnerships are always mutually beneficial.

If progressives are so afraid that the “wall of separation” between church and state is being dismantled, why are they not balking at the federal government’s conversion of the black church into a sub-agency of Health and Human Services? There are so many questions to ask about this odd church/state relationship. Given the fact that Obamacare was such a disaster when it rolled out, and if it is true that the program is somehow from God and tells us something about what He is like, then we are all in big trouble.

Anthony Bradley Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics in the Public Service Program at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.