Acton Institute Powerblog

Does Church/State Separation Apply To Black Churches?

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

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.


  • charlesharper

    Interesting thoughts. I believe that you’re speaking of an issue that has a larger context: i.e., the Black Church (without providing the context).

    Why, do you think, has the black church been historically political?

    • Donny Reb

      Just like I implied. For political gain and power. For money. At least for the top scam artists. I think most at street level have just been hearing it for 50 years and that’s what they think church is supposed to be about. And I’m not saying all black churches are that way. But most. At least where I live.

  • Bill Hickman

    This sounds pretty similar to the Bush White House’s Faith Based Initiatives. So are conservatives against that now? I didn’t hear any outcry from conservatives that those programs were a political quid-pro-quo with white evangelicals, or that white evangelical churches were a “sub-group” of the government. Now a similar outreach to the black community is some kind of corrupt bargain? I think this follows a predominant pattern of our politics – when majority groups mobilize, that’s just wholesome political action. When minorities do it – particularly racial minorities – we wonder what they’re really after.

    Let’s also remember that this is about something pretty benign – getting people health insurance. The horror! On that note, I’d like to see a headcount of how many members of National Baptist congregations won’t have the access to the Medicaid expansion because their Republican governor is afraid of the Tea Party.

    • Paul Frantizek

      “Let’s also remember that this is about something pretty benign – getting people health insurance.”

      Characterizing the ACA as ‘benign’ is an opinion you have every right to hold but, considering the dishonest way it was sold, the corrupt way it was passed, the incompetent way it has been implemented and its destructive effects to date, I wouldn’t expect too many people to agree with you.

      Latest studies I’ve read is that the ACA is more likely to see rates of coverage drop, not rise.

      • Bill Hickman

        What are the “destructive effects to date”? Do you think thousands of people buying quality, affordable health insurance is destructive, or are you thinking of something else?

        I get that conservatives are ideologically opposed to government action on behalf of poor and sick people. I think that’s messed up. But saying Obamacare is against your ideology isn’t the same as saying Obamacare will harm people.

        • Dem Senator: ‘We All Knew’ Obama Was Lying

          On Sunday, appearing on ABC’s This Week with fill-in host Martha Raddatz, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) admitted that Democrats knew full well that Americans would be booted from their health insurance plans as an effect of Obamacare implementation.

          When asked whether Democrats were misled by President Obama about whether Americans would be able to keep their plans in the individual insurance market, Gillibrand answered: “He should’ve just been specific. No, we all knew.”

          She added that the whole point of Obamacare was to “covering things people need, like preventive care, birth control, pregnancy.” The redistributive nature of Obamacare, Gillibrand stated, was the point of the program; anyone claiming ignorance, therefore, is not telling the truth.

        • Marc Vander Maas

          What are the “destructive effects to date”?


          • Bill Hickman

            Marc – and you’re Acton staff? I would think you’d want to raise the level of dialogue around here, not degrade it.

          • Marc Vander Maas

            I get that conservatives are ideologically opposed to government action on behalf of poor and sick people. I think that’s messed up.

            Yeah, you’re really into keeping the dialogue level up there at a high level.

          • Bill Hickman

            Not sure what’s inaccurate about that. In any case, feel free to make a substantive response to any of my points.

          • Bill Hickman

            Is that inaccurate? In any case, feel free to make a substantive response to any of my points.

        • Paul Frantizek

          People purchased insurance on the free market, selecting it because they considered it appropriate to their self-identified needs.

          Whether you consider it either ‘quality’ or ‘affordable’ is besides the point.
          The point is that they 1) Purchased it and 2) Have now seen such policies
          cancelled through no action of their own.

          I thought the point of the ACA was to expand health insurance availability?
          Cancelling policies purchased on the open market hardly contributes to that

          • Bill Hickman

            1) I bet many who bought a now cancelled policy would have loved to buy something more comprehensive if it were available to them. 2) Everyone whose policy is cancelled will be able to shop for a new one on an exchange, and many will receive subsidies to buy one 3) Even if you think the cancellations are a negative, you have to consider them in light of the positive they makes possible – millions can now purchase comprehensive insurance who couldn’t afford it or had preexisting conditions. To me, that positive far outweighs the negative, Ocare is worth doing 4) We often restrict the liberty of consumers by preventing manufacturers, financiers, etc from selling products for public policy reasons. I don’t think absolute freedom for consumers would be a good operating principle.

          • Paul Frantizek

            An Obama supporter playing the ‘We know better than you’ card, what a surprise.

    • Donny Reb

      Ummmmm, pot, meet kettle. If you were against government/church relationships then, why is it OK now? Let me give you a little history lessons about the left and black churches.

      “We should hire three or four colored
      ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging
      personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is
      through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we
      want to exterminate the Negro population. and the minister is the man
      who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more
      rebellious members.” Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. Her one and only reason for Planned Parenthood, and other organizations, were to eradicate the blacks and impoverished whites. She said of those groups, “”Eugenic sterilization is an urgent need … We must prevent multiplication of this bad stock.”

      Blacks were overwhelmingly Republican until the Civil Acts Right of 1964. MLK was a Republican. Lyndon Johnson made this quote after he signed he bill into law. “I’ll have those n1ggers voting democrat for the next 200 years.”

      And we’re almost 50 years into it now. And still the black “Christian” leaders, use the pulpit to spew hate and racism and division and politics, instead of preaching Jesus on the cross and what that means to you and me. My guess is Mr. Johnson used the same tactic Ms. Sanger did.

      • Bill Hickman

        How did this pass through moderation?

  • cken

    And the restitution continues on steroids.

  • Paul Frantizek

    First of all, I have a huge problem with church based agencies encouraging people to seek state aid. I personally consider it to be immoral and contrary to Christian teaching.

    Second, from everything I’ve read, there are zero protections in the ACA website to prevent fraudulent applications. In fact, it almost seems like it was designed to encourage such a thing to boost enrollment numbers.

    • Donny Reb

      Exactly. I don’t ever remember reading that Jesus commanded, “Thou shalt have the tax collectors take from the population and use My church to help pump government agenda.” Quite the contrary. WE are supposed to be helping those who need help, not the government.

  • The greatest danger that exists in the Church’s relationship with the higher powers is that it remains to be just another institution of indoctrination to maintain the status quo for the benefit of those with wealth and power. That does not always occur when the Church provides services that are tied in with the state, such as what Bradley cites here. Rather, it occurs when the Church fails to become a prophetic voice calling the people and the system to repent.

    So with regards to Obamacare, should the Church want a system that covers fewer people or are there other problems the Church should be calling our attention to? The previous system left many victims in its wake and conservatives said nothing. Obamacare is certainly not the answer. So what should the Church be calling for here?

  • Pingback: Does Church/State Separation Apply To Black Churches?()

  • hamous

    So much for the “progressive” mantra of separation of church and state.