Saturday, May 05, 2007

Another Reason Not To Give Public Money To Churches

The Indiana Department of Commerce has apparently been awarding grants to churches to administer a state-funded social service program which offers individual development accounts to help low-income residents pay for education expenses or purchase a home. A State Board of Accounts audit uncovered more than $12,000 worth of money from the program which was diverted by a Fort Wayne pastor for his own personal use. The Journal-Gazette's Niki Kelly reports:

A local clergyman misdirected more than $12,000 worth of money from a state-funded social service program, according to a State Board of Accounts audit released Friday.

Pastor Jesse M. Beasley III, of 3404 Congress Ave., has been asked to reimburse the money to the state.

Beasley – through the Living Word of God Ministries – was one of 45 organizations tapped in 2002 to offer individual development accounts.

The Indiana Department of Commerce program encouraged low-income residents to save money. For every $1 put in by the participant, the state contributed $3 with a $900 maximum state contribution per account.

The money was to be used for education and training, to start or expand a business or to buy a home.

The State Board of Accounts met with the Indiana State Police in 2005 and was told of possible irregularities concerning the agreement between the state and Beasley’s ministry.

They audited records from Jan. 1, 2003, through June 30, 2006, informing Beasley of the findings in January 2007.

The audit found that Beasley, as administrator of the program, authorized two telephone transfers from the individual development accounts to his personal bank account for a total of $2,200.

The audit also found a conflict of interest in that Beasley authorized withdrawals from the program to be paid to Breaking Ground Landscaping in the amount of $10,075. According to the report, the landscaping company is a for-profit corporation registered with the Indiana secretary of state under Jesse Beasley, 3404 Congress Ave.

“Pastor Beasley signed an administration agreement which contained an ethics requirement,” the report said. “One of the requirements states that you can’t do business with yourself.” Allen County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Mike McAlexander said his office has not yet decided whether to pursue criminal charges against Beasley, 50.

Calls to Beasley at Living Word of God Ministries and his home were not returned Friday.
Now, if that isn't a enough to get your blood boiling, wait until you read this little nugget Kelly offers readers. "In Allen Superior Court, Beasley was initially charged in May 1985 with rape and criminal deviate conduct, accused of sexually assaulting an acquaintance." "However, he later pleaded guilty to the amended charge of battery and was ordered to serve two years of an eight-year sentence." "It was while in jail that Beasley met a volunteer chaplain and accepted God, according to a 1997 Journal Gazette article."

It looks like the Allen County prosecuctor's office needs a little refresher course on criminal law. It has not decided whether to press criminal charges against Beasley according to Kelly. The prosecutor's office might want to start by re-reading the criminal statute for theft.

And again, we do have a constitutional prohibition on using public funds to support churches. "No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." Would someone please explain this to our state and local government leaders. They seem to have a problem with this concept as of late.


Wilson46201 said...

Don't overlook the billions of dollars George Bush and his rubber-stamp Republican Congress have funneled nationally to conservative churches and religious organizations!


Unknown said...