The federal government is now reviewing whether or not a Southern Indiana food pantry should have had its food taken away over an issue with prayer. The state and federal officials held a meeting Friday to discuss the issue.
Community Provisions of Jackson County admits it asks people if they want prayer when they come in for food. A state inspector said a week ago that violated state rules for the food. Gleaner’s Food Bank, the state administrator for the food, came and picked it up last week. The food makes up about 15 percent of what the pantry gives out.
The food in question is part of the Federal Emergency Food Assistance Program. The USDA donates the food, but the state distributes it.
The state rules say there can’t be a requirement of religious activity for help. The federal rules go as far as to say prayer is okay, but can’t be required.
Paul Brock with Community Provisions, Inc. said to him this is his ministry. That ministry is helping feed people.
"I believe in heaven and hell. I believe in god and I believe in prayer. Prayer changes things. It's not the sole answer to things, but it helps."
Carrie Fulbright with Gleaner's Food Bank is the state’s administrator for the federal food.
"They're asking clients to pray prior to getting food."
Fulbright said the majority of the agencies it deals with are religious, but faith can’t be a requirement for help.
"The state determines that may still be intimidating and feel like they have to say yes."
Brock argues that while he asks people if they want prayer, it’s not a requirement.
"I'm not going to come in here and try to persuade you to believe what I believe. But I will ask you 'Can I pray for you before you leave?'
"If you say no that's fine. You still get to come and shop do like everyone else," said Brock.
Brock said he doesn’t think there is anything wrong with asking people about prayer. He said he will keep asking and keep trying to give food to the needy.
"As long as we do what God wants us to do here, there will be food to give out."