A letter about the Phase 4 COVID-19 Relief Package to Congress

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

Thank you for your hard work on passing previous COVID-19 relief packages. I’m grateful for your efforts and your dedication to assisting others during this time of crisis. While those packages include many provisions to aid people who have been affected by the crisis, there are more steps that need to be taken to help.

The economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis will be difficult for many and devastating for others, including our nation’s most vulnerable populations. As you work on the details of a Phase 4 legislative package, I write to ask you to include our nation’s charitable sector and protect our vulnerable populations. The charitable sector is on the frontlines of this crisis, providing care and resources for the unemployed, the elderly, and the vulnerable. There are many suffering from COVID-19, but certain vulnerable populations are suffering from unique burdens and challenges right now.

I’d like to ask you to include the following provisions in a Phase 4 package:

Charitable Sector and Nonprofits Provisions

Two-year Universal Charitable Deduction to Encourage Giving to Charities

A Universal Charitable Deduction (UCD) would incentivize all taxpayers to give to nonprofits and charities, including churches. This action would help mitigate the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our government should welcome the generosity of all citizens–at all levels of income–who desire to help their neighbors through religious associations, educational institutions, and any organization that relieves poverty.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 doubled the standard deduction, which means that most Americans no longer itemize their deductions. Under the federal tax code, people can only claim a deduction for charitable contributions if they itemize their deductions. Since the amount of people who itemize deductions has shrunk, many nonprofits are concerned there would be a drop in donations, because of the lack of incentive to give. The Charitable Deduction is the only deduction for which the taxpayer receives no other material benefit (compared with the mortgage interest deduction or tuition deduction).

The Phase 4 relief package should include an unlimited Universal Charitable Deduction, retroactive to 2019 and extending for two years to propel American generosity to the organizations serving at the front lines in our communities.

Provide Additional Payroll Support for Charitable Nonprofits

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) authorized billions of dollars in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis. While some nonprofits were able to access a PPP loan, many others weren’t able to, due to a variety of reasons, including limited funds in the PPP program.

The inability to access those loans will hinder the good work of many nonprofits, and could permanently close other charitable organizations. This could be solved through a nonprofit charity grant program that would be accessed by faith-based charities to support employee retention, hiring, and programming. The funds could be administered through a nonprofit PPP program, and a nonprofit grant program administered by the U.S. Treasury.

Additionally, the 500 employee cap under the PPP could be adjusted to support larger nonprofit organizations. This adjustment will allow for more charitable organizations to be able to receive financial aid, to help keep their doors open. Faith-based and charitable nonprofits are on the frontlines of caring for the vulnerable, especially in times of crisis, and the U.S. government should seek to provide the necessary support for these important organizations.

Support Nonprofit K-12 Schools and Families

While the CARES Act allocated funding for K-12 public schools, there was limited support for faith-based educational institutions that educate millions of children. Congress should provide additional support for nonpublic schools, by enacting a tax deduction, retroactive to 2018 for a portion of tuition payments made by parents to a non-public K-12 school. Parents who choose to enroll their children in these institutions are facing financial strain and stress, and many may be unable to pay the full tuition amount. This tax deduction could ease their burden, and also help the public school sector from being overwhelmed if there was an influx of children and youth enrolling.

Provisions to help Vulnerable and At-Risk Populations

Flexibility within the SNAP Benefit Program

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted food supply chains, driving up the price of food, which has a disparate impact for lower-income families. Many families find themselves newly needing to access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). While Congress did expand and increase unemployment insurance and benefits, many families are still unable to feed their children. Malnutrition weakens peoples’ immune systems, and children who are malnourished face long-term health and cognitive consequences.

In addition, not all SNAP recipients are able to purchase groceries online for home delivery. This especially puts the elderly poor in urban areas at particular risk—they risk exposure on public transportation and at grocery stores. Congress should include a provision that legally expands the USDA online SNAP purchasing pilot program to all states, to help vulnerable SNAP recipients be able to safely get food.

Congress should allow for flexibility within the SNAP program, to ensure that individuals’ needs are met, that all Americans have access to food security, and that participants are able to purchase food in ways that keep them safe. SNAP is the most cost-effective anti-hunger program in the United States and has the added benefit of supporting local small businesses. Allowing flexibility within this program will seek to ensure that people’s basic needs are met, and more Americans will have food security.

Flexibility within the Chafee Program for Foster Youth

The John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood (Chafee Program) provides funds to states, territories, and Indian tribal entities (states) with material and other support for current and former foster youth. Congress should allow for flexibility within this program to serve and support older youth facing the stress and disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, youth age out of foster care between ages 18 and 21, depending on the state they live in. Congress should allow for all youth, in all states to participate in the Chafee program until age 23. This will provide additional resources for youth who have transitioned out of foster care before the COVID-19 crisis hit.

Flexibility on Discharges from the Foster Care System for Youth Ages 18 to 21

Youth in foster care age out between 18 and 21, depending on the state. The statistics are grim for youth that age out under normal circumstances, and many youth experience homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, and are at a higher risk of being trafficked. Congress should place a moratorium on youth aging out during the COVID-19 crisis for youth, ages 18 to 21 to provide safety and security, so they can continue their current living arrangements, and have the support they need. This additional time will help these youth successfully transition out of care.

Flexibility for Compassionate Release in the Federal Prison System

Incarcerated men and women are especially vulnerable in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis because of contained physical space. This is especially true for aging and immunocompromised incarcerated populations. Congress should expand compassionate release during the pandemic, so that higher-risk individuals would be protected from medical harm. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and federal courts use this tool to reduce sentences for federal prisoners on a case-by-case basis for “extraordinary and compelling reasons.”

Congress should temporarily reduce the 30 day waiting period for federal prisoners to file a motion for compassionate release directly with a federal court in order to speed up the process and provide quicker physical and medical relief to those incarcerated.

Use Digital Programming in Federal Prisons

In accordance with social distancing guidelines, federal prisons have restricted traditional face-to-face programming and visitation. These prisons should allow for use of electronic tablets for those incarcerated to allow access to rehabilitative programming while the threat of COVID-19 persists. These programs are crucial for long-term outcomes and community reintegration, and we urge Congress to find ways to ensure that these programs can continue.

Support for Second-Chance Entrepreneurs

The Paycheck Protection Program eligibility requirements deny financial relief to small business owners with a criminal record. An estimated one in three Americans have a criminal record, and the strict requirements hinder many business owners from accessing the Paycheck Protection Program. This restriction places an additional burden on those who have already paid their debt to their communities and who are working to support themselves, their families, and their communities.

To the extent that fraud is a concern, SBA has other tools at its disposal, including audits conducted at the time of loan forgiveness. These new restrictions should be lifted to allow all members of our communities to participate.

Thank you again for your hard work during these difficult times. I appreciate your consideration of these issues I raise here, and I look forward to working with you in the coming weeks.


Russell Moore
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24