Acton Institute Powerblog

Should religious publications accept government funding to promote the EU?

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The government of Poland recently funded media outlets that agreed to cover the EU’s international wealth redistribution program, the EU Structural Funds. The fact that one of the recipients was a Catholic weekly raises numerous moral and ethical questions.

Marcin Rzegocki, who lives in Poland, describes the “omnipresent” propaganda, funded by taxpayer funds, intended to promote the public perception of the European Union. In a new essay for Religion & Liberty Transatlantic, he reveals the extent of the issue. The government awarded nearly 2.9 million zlotys ($781,321 U.S.) in all – including nearly $39,000 to a conservative-leaning Catholic publication, which happens to be Poland’s most popular weekly magazine. He asks:

To what extent can religious media maintain their objectivity and independence if they receive government funding? Can this magazine be free to present objective truth about the negative aspects of European programs? It seems clear that any recipient, especially one that willingly entered a contest with such clear-cut goals as this one, would be inclined toward favorable coverage. The funding would also increase the pressure for any other religious publisher who wants to maintain his publication’s position in the market vis-à-vis his competitors, who are now supported by state agencies. Can a Catholic newspaper that does not accept public money compete in the free market against other periodicals that do receive taxpayer funding?

He adds that EU image enhancement is seemingly everywhere, funded by Polish taxpayers, regardless of their views of the European Union. It even targets schoolchildren with contests to win prizes in exchange for writing a song or developing a game about the EU Structural Funds. “It is not difficult to imagine whole schools in poorer regions of Poland involved in such an activity – or the impact that this may have on the political, social, and economic beliefs of these youngsters in the future,” he writes.

In addition to raising serious ethical issues that every church member – clergy or laity – should ponder, Rzegocki provides copious details about the EU’s publicly funded marketing and PR campaign, which seems to pervade every portion of Europe. “It is hard to justify spending taxpayers’ money on publicity campaigns that promote applying for more taxpayer-funded grants,” he writes – an issue we face in the United States, as well.

His research is informative. His questions are penetrating. How would government funding affect the views of those who rely on church leaders for accurate information? Should religious leaders accept such funds?

You can read the full article here.

(Photo credit: Public domain. CC0.)

Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.

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