9/11 as a Threat to Non-Profits?

Homelessness and Hunger Now Fall Under the Department of Homeland Security?

I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that non-profits are finding the War on Terror a convenient excuse to increase their funding from government. Nor surprising that our friends in Washington have been happy to oblige in adding dependents to the gravy train.

In news that could have been taken straight from the pages of an updated edition of Crisis and Leviathan, on Tuesday the Senate Appropriations committee earmarked $13 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program as well as $150 million for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, both in the fiscal year 2013 Homeland Security spending bill. This $33 million increase over the prior year’s funding had been helped along by lobbying from Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the Orthodox Union, and Agudath Israel of America, through whom the funds are administered together with other non-profit groups and public agencies.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program was established in 2005 to fund “additional physical security measures and training for at-risk non-profit institutions,” while the Emergency Food and Shelter Program assists “Americans experiencing financial hardship and potential long-term homelessness and hunger.” That both fall under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security is standard “mission creep,” as explained by the representative of the primary beneficiary of the Security Grant funds:

“Since September 11th, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been victims of an alarming number of threats and attacks and we are grateful for the Senate’s continuing support of the program so millions of Americans can learn, worship and live without fear,” said William Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of JFNA.

The rules for establishing that such threats exist are, shall we say, “creative:”

The criteria established by Congress and DHS requires [sic] not-for-profits to demonstrate that they “or closely related organizations (within or outside the U.S.)” have been subjected to prior threats or attacks by a terrorist network. Taking into account incidents overseas allows Jewish groups to describe their threat level regardless of what is happening in their own communities.

Some within the Jewish community understand that taking government funding carries unacceptable risks:

“You’re endangering a fundamental principle of separating church and state in return for something that has very little impact on the community,” argued Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, which urged its synagogues instead to seek funds for security improvements from their own members and local federations, though some still applied for the grants, anyhow.

Indeed, the corrupting influence of state subsidies created a German church blindly loyal to the Führer above God—a lesson one would think would resonate especially among the Jewish community.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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