A southern Indiana food pantry can no longer distribute federal food commodities because it asks clients to pray.
Paul Brock of Community Provisions of Jackson County said he distributes food regardless of whether recipients are willing to pray with him or one of the Seymour pantry's other volunteers.
But Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, which administers the commodity program for the Indiana State Department of Health, has guidelines that prohibit talk of prayer.
"There has to be a separation from the state and the actual religious portion of what they do," said Gleaners CEO and President Cindy Hubert.
Brock said the commodities represent about 15 percent of its program serving about 100 families per week. He is unmoved.
"I'm not a preacher, so I'm not going to bring my Bible in here and hit somebody on the head with it," he said. "But I do want to ask them, 'Will you pray with me before you leave?'"
Paula Coffer, 50, comes to the food bank three times a year for groceries. She said she doesn't have a problem with Brock's approach.
"People that come here need prayer and food. They need help from the government that they pay taxes to, and they need help from God," she said.
Gleaners often suggests to faith-based operations that they offer brochures or establish a separate room for prayer.
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