Food First, Prayers Later At Indiana Pantry

 

Staffers at a “faith-based” food pantry in Indiana must wait until after they distribute federally provided food before inviting clients to pray, thanks to a legal compromise.

Community Provisions of Jackson County, which opened in 1997, receives food to distribute to the needy through the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program. The organization had been asking applicants whether they would like to pray before they received food until state officials said the practice raised constitutional issues.

In order to continue to get federal aid, the organization agreed that Community Provisions would ask the people it assists if they want to pray only after they receive food.

Paul Brock, who started the pantry, told Religion News Service that he didn’t like the idea of changing the prayer policy, but he feared that the 300 people served by the organization wouldn’t get enough to eat without the federal help, which accounts for about 15 percent of the food served by Community Provisions.

Since so many religious organizations run food pantries, cases like this one are becoming increasingly common.