Frequent Flyer: Louisiana Governor Jets To Church – At Taxpayer Expense

August 31st, 2009
By Sandhya Bathija
Church Politicking, Government-Sponsored Religion, Tax Funding of Religion

Bobby Jindal continues to “jet set” across Louisiana.

By jet, I of course mean helicopter – one funded entirely by taxpayers.

As the Wall of Separation noted last fall, the Louisiana governor spent $180,000 in taxpayer funds during his first eight months in office to travel by a State Police helicopter to many of the same churches he visited while on his campaign trail.

He wasn’t just attending these churches for quiet prayer; he spoke out during the church services, telling the same tale of his conversion to Christianity that he did while campaigning.

Now, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate, Jindal has since spent another $45,000 traveling to even more churches.

“In May, June and July, there was rarely a Sunday when the governor didn’t board a taxpayer-funded helicopter to attend church services in far-flung parts of the state,” the newspaper reported.

Jindal is a devout Roman Catholic yet he is traveling to worship at conservative Protestant churches 200 miles away from his Baton Rouge home. He says he mixes these church visits with meetings with local officials throughout the state and insists these trips have nothing to do with maintaining his gubernatorial seat come next election.

“I’m completely just humbled and honored that I’m asked to come and worship with Louisianians across the state,” he said. “It’s important for the governor to get out of Baton Rouge.”

It may indeed be important for the governor to get out of Baton Rouge, but it’s also important for him to understand the constitutional separation of church and state. Public funds should never fund religion – and that includes Gov. Jindal’s $1,200 helicopter rides to church every Sunday.

Jindal certainly has the right to practice his own faith. But he does not have the right to preach all over the state on the taxpayer’s dime.

It’s also important for Jindal to understand the rules governing tax exemption for religious and other nonprofit institutions. Federal tax law plainly forbids house of worship to engage in partisan politics. If churches are serving as a political base for one candidate, they’re overstepping legal bounds.

We all know that Jindal’s appearances at these churches are as much political as they are religious. And that’s a misuse of religion.

I know the Supreme Court has made it hard for taxpayers to challenge these kinds of abuses in court. And the IRS has sometimes been less than rigorous in enforcing the ban on electioneering at churches and other nonprofits.

But enough is enough, and Louisiana taxpayers should voice their concerns to the governor himself.   Surely, if enough people speak out loudly and clearly, Jindal will shut down this personal tax-funded frequent-flyer program.

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