A Christian organization was told by a Florida agriculture department official that it will be barred from handing out USDA food to the poor alongside Bibles.
The official said that Christian Service Center, a Christian ministry that has provided food to the poor of Lake City for 31 years, has to take down pictures of Jesus, the Ten Commandments, and a banner that says "Jesus is Lord" in its facilities if it wants to continue to supply USDA, Fox News reports
"They told us they could no longer allow us to have any religious information where the USDA food is going to be," said Christian Service Center executive director Kay Daly.
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The government agents also told the center's staff that they could no longer pray with those in need or make any references to the organization's chapel.
"We asked if we had to change the name of the organization but they said we could leave that," Daly said. "But we had to take our religious stuff down."
Florida Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Amanda Bevis told Fox News that the official was following USDA guidelines and that it was about separation of church and state.
"This program is a USDA-funded program and the requirements were outlined by the USDA," Bevis said. "The agency administers the program on the state level. Our staff did provide a briefing to CSC following turnover in leadership at CSC and did review the USDA requirements."
However, a USDA spokesperson said that "under current law, organizations that receive USDA nutrition assistance can still engage in religious activities so long as the activity is not used to create a barrier to eligible individuals receiving food."
The spokesperson cited an Executive Order that protects faith-based organizations and allows them to function without "removing or altering religious art, icons, scriptures or symbols from these facilities."
The Christian Service Center decided to turn down the government food and make do without it.
"We decided to eliminate the USDA food and we're going to trust God to provide," Daly told Fox. "If God can multiply fish and loaves for 10,000 people, he can certainly bring in food for our food pantry so we can continue to feed the hungry."
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