Republican Rep. Jodey Arrington of Texas used a Bible verse to justify increasing work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program during a hearing of the House subcommittee on nutrition on March 28 (video below).
Republicans have been talking about separating SNAP from the 2018 Farm Bill, which the GOP attempted to do in 2013, reports USA Today, and adding new work requirements for SNAP benefits.
Arrington quoted 2 Thessalonians 3-10 to rebut one of the hearing’s expert witnesses -- Josh Protas, the vice president of public policy at MAZON, a Jewish anti-hunger group -- who quoted a verse from Leviticus, notes The Washington Post:
The scriptures tells us in 2 Thessalonians 3-10, he says, "For even when we were with you we gave you this rule, 'If a man will not work he shall not eat.'" And then he goes on to say, "We heard that some of you are idle." I think that every American, Republican or Democrat wants to help the needy among us. And I think it’s a reasonable expectation that we have work requirements. I think that gives more credibility, quite frankly, to SNAP.
The Apostle Paul, the recognized author of 2 Thessalonians, was not speaking about the general public in the verse, but rather to the Christian community in the city of Thessalonica. In the next verse, 2 Thessalonians 3:11, Paul specifically mentions that he is talking about busybodies: "We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies."
Protas told the congressional hearing: "No one is suggesting that people who don’t want to work should get benefits. There are stereotypes about SNAP recipients and myths about the program ... that are very harmful to people in need who could take advantage of it," notes The Washington Post.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, almost two-thirds of the people on SNAP are "children, seniors, and those with disabilities." In households that receive SNAP benefits and have someone who is able to work, over 75 percent have that person employed in a "year before or after receiving SNAP." Forty-three percent of people receiving SNAP "live in a household with earnings."
Arrington’s office did not comment to The Washington Post about the Bible verse.
Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that people on SNAP receive between $1.40 and $1.90 per person per meal, which is not enough to support a healthy diet that would included fresh fruits and vegetables, reports USA Today.
Sources: The Washington Post, Bible Hub, USDA, USA Today / Photo credit: U.S. House Office of Photography/Wikimedia Commons