Churches are not benefitting from government funds in Warren County — but two religious non-profits are

Published 4:34 pm Friday, September 1, 2023

Churches in Warren County are not benefitting outright from government funds, official documents reveal.

Following an Aug. 21 open letter sent by District 3 Warren County Supervisor Shawn Jackson, in which Jackson stated she wanted to increase local and private, or special, legislation funding for two local churches, a Freedom of Information Act request revealed the supervisor misspoke.

The two churches mentioned in Jackson’s letter are Travelers Rest Baptist Church and Triumphant Baptist Church. In her letter, she stated her intent to request to increase “local/private for two churches in the community from a ridiculously low $13K and $18K to $50K.” The funding increase would be from $18,000 and $13,000, respectively, to $50,000 each.

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As a matter of legislative policy, local and private legislation needs a unanimous vote in order to be entertained at the state level. District 2 Supervisor William Banks said he told Jackson he was not in favor of voting for increasing the funding, which put the request at risk. Jackson’s request never went before the board in a formal vote.

While the churches, as tax-exempt religious organizations, are not benefitting from the use of public funds, their non-profit 501(c)3 arms are.

Seven organizations benefit from local and private legislation funding through Warren County:

  • We Care Community Services: $6,000

  • Vicksburg Family Development: $8,000

  • Travelers Rest Christian Academy: $18,000

  • Triumph Ministries, Inc.: $11,250

  • Central MS Prevention: $3,000

  • Women’s Restoration Shelter: $4,500

  • Good Shepherd Community Center: $20,000

According to information from Chancery Clerk Donna Hardy, local and private legislation requests were approved on Feb. 6, 2023, for the agencies. Even though recipients were selected by a vote in February, each agency must have applied for consideration during the county’s budget preparation time in June of the previous year, and the amount awarded doesn’t necessarily reflect what was actually requested.

Official resolutions signed by Hardy and Board President Kelle Barfield state that Triumph Ministries’ funds are allocated for use with the non-profit’s tutoring programs.

“Triumph Ministries, Inc., a Mississippi non-profit corporation, operating under the auspices of Triumph Church provides a tutorial program during the year and an educational enrichment program during the summer for low-income and disadvantaged youth in a supervised, structured environment,” the resolution reads. “… The Warren County Board of Supervisors wishes to have the authority to contribute public funds to Triumph Ministries, Inc., to help support its programs.”

Dexter Jones, the pastor of Triumphant Baptist Church, declined to comment on the receipt of government funds, saying only that his church does not directly benefit from said funding, but the non-profit does.

Travelers Rest Christian Academy, which receives the second-highest amount of funding through local and private legislation at $18,000, received assistance this year to “expand its after-school and tutorial programs,” the resolution stated. The school reopened in 2022 to 15 students after a hiatus.

“Travelers Rest Baptist Church is also being proactive in addressing the mental health issues along with traditional mental health providers in Warren County,” the resolution read. “The Warren County Board of Supervisors has recognized the benefits provided to those being served by the after-school and tutorial programs as well as the mental health program offered by Travelers Rest Baptist Church.”

Dr. General Bryant, pastor of Travelers Rest, was out of town and not available for comment.

However, Warren County Administrator Loretta Brantley confirmed Thursday that Triumph Ministries Inc. and Travelers Rest Christian Academy both use their local and private legislation funds exclusively for community programming.

Click here to read the resolutions for all seven organizations that benefit from local and private legislation through the Warren County Board of Supervisors.