Paycheck Protection Program money given to anti-LGBT organizations

The Catholic Church received at least $1.4 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funds. Photo: Jason Villemez

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has released a list of 650,000 recipients of loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Organizations listed as known anti-LGBT hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) are among those who were granted the loans. In addition to these organizations are evangelical and other churches, with the Catholic Church receiving as much as $3.5 billion in PPP funds and possibly significantly more.

The PPP is a $659 billion fund established to help small businesses weather the lengthy shut down that began in March. In late April it was revealed that some large corporations like Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steak House had skirted the rules to get millions in PPP loans. Those companies returned the funds when the revelation caused widespread outrage among small business owners.

The loans were slated for entities with 500 or fewer employees. Religious groups with more than 500 employees received a special waiver. Loans under the PPP are forgivable if the recipient shows it kept employees on payroll or rehired them quickly.

The Trump administration fought to keep specific funding details from being revealed. The SBA withheld data for businesses that received less than $150,000 in funding — which account for over 80% of loans made through the program and roughly a quarter of money lent through the PPP. But the SBA did release a list of all recipients who received more than $150,000, though it did not disclose the exact amount each entity received, only a range.

The revealed PPP recipients include a wide range of for-profit businesses as well as non-profit organizations. Among the latter are the anti-LGBT American Family Association, Liberty Counsel, Concerned Women for America and Joyce Meyer Ministries as well as a host of other churches, faith groups and individuals that espouse anti-LGBTQ policies.

Some of these organizations have ties to the Trump family and Trump cabinet. President Trump’s personal faith counselor, Rev. Robert Jeffress, received a loan of between $2 million and $5 million for his Dallas-based megachurch. Jeffress sits on Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board, and he is famous for his two-part sermon “Why Gay Is Not Okay,” which has been widely disseminated among evangelical churches and faith groups.

Jeffress has a long and disturbing history of homophobic comments that include linking being gay to pedophilia and bestiality. He said, “There are a disproportionate amount of assaults against children by homosexuals. Homosexuality is perverse, it represents a degradation of a person’s mind.” He has also said “what homosexuals do is filthy” and “homosexuality is a miserable lifestyle.”

White House spiritual czar, Rev. Paula White-Cain, who delivered the invocation at Trump’s Inauguration, also received loans for her ministry, the controversial New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida.

The Catholic Church has paid out over a billion in restitution to victims of the priest sex abuse scandal in recent years. According to the Associated Press, around 40 dioceses which have paid compensation to sexual abuse victims were approved for funds totaling around $200 million.

The PPP loans also went to dioceses renowned for their homophobic hierarchy. The Archdiocese of New York received 15 separate loans worth at least $28 million solely for its top executive offices. St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue was approved for $1 million. The Archdiocese is headed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who has been provocatively anti-LGBT.

Among other Catholic Church recipients is the Philadelphia Archdiocese, which received between $2 and $5 million. The Philadelphia Archdiocese has one of the worst priest sex abuse histories in the country. A three-year grand jury investigation revealed scores of priests had abused minors and the Archdiocese hierarchy had paid out millions to keep the victims silent.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese is also know for recently departed Archbishop Charles Chaput’s virulently anti-LGBT agenda. In Oct. 2018, at an international Youth Synod assembly in Rome, Chaput was reported saying that the church should avoid using the term LGBTQ to identify people in documents because “There is no such thing as an ‘LGBTQ Catholic’ or a ‘transgender Catholic’ or a ‘heterosexual Catholic.'”

As recently as September 2019, the Philadelphia Archdiocese sponsored a conference by a group that conducts reparative therapy, also known as conversion therapy.

Another loan of at least $2 million went to the diocese in Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, where an investigation in 2019 uncovered that then-Bishop Michael Bransfield embezzled funds and made sexual advances toward young priests.

Another recipient of PPP is the American Family Association (AFA). The AFA has been listed as a hate group by the SPLC since 2010 for the “propagation of known falsehoods” and the use of “demonizing propaganda against LGBT people.”

The AFA is also the parent organization of the group One Million Moms which has organized numerous boycotts, including against Target for their trans-inclusive bathroom policy, against JC Penney for using Ellen DeGeneres as their spokesperson, and in 2019 against The Hallmark Channel for their use of a Zola ad that included a lesbian couple.

Concerned Women for America received at least $1 million. That group, also among the eight SPLC listed hate groups to be awarded PPP cash, is known for its opposition to same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples and trans bathroom rights. CWA’s CEO, Penny Nance, spoke out against the Equality Act last year when it was before the House. She asserts that the law endangers women.

HRC states that Concerned Women for America opposed renewing the Violence Against Women Act because it “creates new protections for homosexuals,” despite also claiming that LGBTQ couples were twice as likely to experience domestic violence. CWA also opposes hate crimes legislation.

ABC News reports that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for the release of more information on the loan recipients and criteria for their being chosen. Schumer said “more transparency is still needed to ensure that these taxpayer dollars went where Congress intended — to the truly small and underbanked small businesses.”

John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of the small business advocacy group Small Business Majority, voiced concerns that minority businesses were not being represented in the PPP funding.

Only two national LGBTQ organizations appeared on the list. The National LGBTQ Task Force and the LGBTQ Victory Fund were approved for loans between $150,000 $350,000. In Philadelphia, the Mazzoni Center received between $1 and $2 million, as did Planned Parenthood of Southeast PA, located in the Gayborhood, which offers non-biased medical and STI treatment and is a clinic visited by LGBT and non-binary people. The Attic Youth Center and Action Wellness also received PPP funds.

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