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Holy Freeloading! 10 Ways Religious Groups Take from the Public Purse

Religion is big business, especially with the help of your tax dollars.

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10. Provide safety net services to potential converts. Prisoners, addicts, single moms, pregnant teens, the elderly, foster kids...the possibilities are endless. President George Bush established an Office of Faith Based Initiatives, which worked to strengthen religious organizations in their ability to provide social services. In the first year, 2005, $2.2 billion in grants were awarded to religious organizations. (Barack Obama later revamped and expanded the office, appointing a cadre of religious leaders as advisors and putting his personal spiritual guide, Joshua DuBois, at the helm.)

The savvy expansion-minded religious entrepreneur will notice that people who are the target of safety net services often are the very same people who make prime candidates for conversion. In both cases they fit the bill because the fabric of their lives has frayed and they are in need of help. From a business standpoint such a focus may seem less than ideal, but remember this: poor, desperate people are the ones who put those celebrity evangelists in their mansions.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of "Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light" and "Deas and Other Imaginings." Her articles can be found at
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