Scott Demands Answers from USDA Distributors Pushing Religious Activity onto People Seeking Food Boxes

October 8, 2020
Press Release
“It is a basic and fundamental principle that individuals should not have to pass a religious test to access federally funded services, including food assistance…”

WASHINGTON, DC – Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) demanded answers from Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Perdue about a troubling report that some faith-based organizations participating in the Farmers to Families Food Box program, which has already been plagued by mismanagement, are subjecting participants to unsolicited religious activity.  The reports include instances of faith-based organizations placing religious messages in food boxes, directing the distribution of food boxes to church members, using the food boxes to solicit donations and encouraging families to pray before receiving food boxes. 

Since 2004, USDA’s regulations have prohibited explicitly religious activities and prohibited religious discrimination against participants as part of Its federally funded programs.  However, following reports of religious activity at food distribution sites, Chairman Scott is concerned that the Farmers to Families Food Box program is operating in direct violation of  USDA’s longstanding regulations..  

“Faith-based organizations and other community-based organizations have long been valuable partners with the federal government in delivering services to some of our most vulnerable individuals, but they have usually done so while respecting the rights of these individuals,” Chairman Scott wrote. “It is a basic and fundamental principle that individuals should not have to pass a religious test to access federally funded services, including food assistance.  Practices that result in religious discrimination and coercion against individuals and families in need seeking food boxes under this program are not only wrong, they violate USDA regulations and as such, must be remedied by USDA.”

In the letter, Chairman Scott also requested documents from the Department, including a list of contractors participating in the program, details of the Department’s oversight over the program, and whether the Department is tracking any violations of its regulations and policies. 

To read the full letter, click here.

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