On the very same day that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned senators that the coronavirus pandemic and the likely massive looming recession could cause the unemployment rate to hike to 20 percent, President Trump’s spiritual adviser, Paula White, asked her devoted base for private donations to fund her private church.
She described the church as a “hospital to the sick” although she didn’t mean the physically sick, she meant the spiritually sick.
White was appointed as the special adviser to the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives by President Trump in October.
Recently, while delivering an online COVID-19 themed “prayer session” to her congregation, she used the platform to discuss the fundraising needs of her Apokpa, Florida church, City of Destiny, where she holds a position of prominence.
Trump’s “spiritual adviser” (and head of the White House’s “Faith and Opportunity Initiative” program) Paula White asked for cash during a coronavirus-related prayer session this afternoon.— Hemant Mehta (@hemantmehta) March 17, 2020
“Maybe you’d like to sow a $91 seed… Or maybe $9. Or whatever God tells you to do.” pic.twitter.com/zUoeufRhda
Even though the money wouldn’t go to people infected with the virus, which has now claimed the lives of over 3,000 Americans alone, White kept repeating the word “sick”, as though she wanted donors to feel a sense of urgency, saying: “Every single day we are a hospital to the sick, not necessarily the physically sick… But we are a hospital for those who are soul sick, those who are spiritually sick.” White suggested a $91 donation, citing Psalm 91, but said “maybe $9 or whatever God tells you to do.”
White has a long history as a religious figure who solicits money from followers, promising she can intervene with God on their behalf. Mother Jones’ Stephanie Mencimer reported in February:
“A Senate report found that White’s personal ministry and the church she ran with her now ex-husband used tax-exempt ministry funds to pay nearly $900,000 one year for the Whites’ waterfront mansion. It paid over a million dollars in salaries to family members and kept the Whites in the air with a private jet. White and her church refused to cooperate with the investigation and in 2011, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), issued a report outlining the committee’s findings but took no other action.”
Now that she has Trump’s spotlight as her own pulpit, she stands to gain even more- but those gains are now more visible to the public, and tied to a close association with the Commander in Chief. As Mencimer wrote poignantly about the uncomfortable conflict of the Trump/White relationship:
The melding of White’s public and private jobs is nearly seamless, as she invokes her relationship with Trump in her sermons and fundraising pitches, even as she wields her spiritual authority to defend the president. But experts say the arrangement raises significant conflict of interest questions, concerns about her compliance with tax laws banning nonprofit churches from endorsing candidates. And there’s the more fundamental question as to whether by installing her in a White House job, Trump has put the government’s stamp of approval on a religious ministry that includes faith healing and preying on vulnerable people for money.
This much is clear, White is soliciting donations for her church under the guise of helping fight on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic and that’s just simply not true.