[Hpn] Mandatory prayer cost shelter USDA food FWD

Bonnie Briggs s248_1132@hotmail.com
Mon, 11 Sep 2000 23:59:41 +0000 (GMT)

>MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ It may be beans and rice for awhile at a
>homeless shelter where mandatory prayers have caught the attention
>of government inspectors.
>Because of the required praying, Memphis Union Mission is no
>longer receiving the 10 tons of meat it has been getting annually
>from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
>But Terry Minton of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture said
>the meat cutback ``isn't targeting religious activity.''
>``If people are needy and they come into your agency and you
>have our food to give them ... You can't make them do anything for
>that food,'' Minton said.
>The shelter, part of a citywide Christian ministry for the poor
>and homeless, says the meat will cost some $50,000 a year to
>replace. That will account for about a third of the ministry's
>budget, which is financed primarily by private donations.
>The shelter provided more than 166,000 free meals last year.
>Religious services are mandatory before the meals are served three
>times a day.
>The Rev. Mark Calhoun, the mission's chief executive, said the
>shelter has no intention of altering its practices.
>``We won't change that. That's the reason we exist,'' Calhoun
>said. ``We exist to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ.''
>Cheri Holcomb, Calhoun's assistant, said Friday that word of the
>shelter losing its meat supply has encouraged many of the
>ministry's supporters to increase their usual donations.
>``I can't tell you how much yet. It hasn't all been counted, but
>we've been overwhelmed with a wonderful response from the public,''
>she said.
>State inspectors, who oversee USDA programs in Tennessee,
>noticed the mission's mandatory prayer rule during a routine
>inspection in July.
>Minton said the shelter can get back on the USDA meat program if
>the religious services are made voluntary.
>``It's simply that you cannot put any additional restrictions on
>receiving the food,'' he said. ``You can't force people to work for
>the food. You can't force them to attend any sort of classes or
>counseling or religious services or budget classes.''
>Many religious groups draw such USDA assistance. The Salvation
>Army also runs a feeding program in Memphis.
>``Prayer is not a requirement for any of the services provided
>by the Salvation Army,'' said spokeswoman Alexa Robinson. ``Any
>religious services that we have available, the participation is
>strictly voluntary.''
>Holcomb said the shelter expects to continue operating just the
>way it has despite the reduction in government aid.
>``We'll be here until Jesus comes,'' she said.

Hi gang,
  I agree with the Government. (isn't that scary?) The religous service 
should be voluntary. No one should be forced to sit through a service or a 
prayer meeting in order to get food. These people have to jump through 
enough hoops already, why create more? Just give them the food they need. 
I'm sure Jesus would understand. After all, he was there once himself.

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