Wallis admits funding from Soros; wealthy urged to give it away
Posted on Sep 3, 2010 | by Erin Roach
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–After initially denying it, Jim Wallis, a leader of the evangelical left, has admitted his Sojourners organization has received funding from leftist billionaire George Soros, who has financed groups promoting abortion, atheism and “gay marriage.”
Marvin Olasky, editor of World magazine, mentioned in a column this summer that Soros bankrolled Sojourners with a $200,000 grant in 2004, followed by at least two more grants, all while Wallis said he knew of “no connections” between “religious progressives” and liberal groups “that are as direct as the Religious Right’s ties to right-wing funders.”
Wallis frequently claims to be neither left nor right, but “prophetic,” speaking to both sides. Olasky called on Wallis to admit that he is clearly on the left.
In a subsequent interview with Patheos, an interfaith website, Wallis said, “Glenn Beck lies for a living. I’m sad to see Marvin Olasky doing the same thing.” Later Wallis apologized to Olasky and said in a statement that he had not been able to recall such funding at the time he denied it.
“The spirit of the accusation was that Sojourners is beholden to funders on the political left, which is false,” Wallis said. “The allegation concerned three grants received over 10 years from [Soros’] Open Society Institute that made up the tiniest fraction of Sojourners’ funding during that decade — so small that I hadn’t remembered them. Sojourners doesn’t belong to the political left or right.”
Jay Richards wrote for National Review Online Aug. 25 that Sojourners received at least 49 separate foundation grants between 2003 and 2009 totaling more than $2 million. “Not one of these is from a discernibly conservative foundation,” Richards wrote. “Very few are from discernibly Christian foundations.”
Three grants were from the (Barbra) Streisand Foundation, which also contributes to People for the American Way and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Richards noted.
“You don’t have to be keen-witted to figure out that Sojourners is overwhelmingly a left-wing operation, optimized to brand left-wing ideas for Christians, ideologically moored on the left, and funded to a significant degree by secular, left-wing donors with little interest in the health of the church,” Richards wrote. “Certainly this fact is apparent to the trustees and officers of many left-wing foundations.”
‘GIVING PLEDGE’ URGES PHILANTHROPY — Warren Buffett joined Bill and Melinda Gates in launching the Giving Pledge, “an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.”
In August, 40 families and individuals had signed the pledge to give away at least half their fortunes either during their lifetimes or after their deaths, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, filmmaker George Lucas, media mogul Ted Turner and oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens.
“We’ve really just started but already we’ve had a terrific response,” Buffett, the third-richest person in the world, said. “At its core, the Giving Pledge is about asking wealthy families to have important conversations about their wealth and how it will be used. We’re delighted that so many people are doing just that — and that so many have decided to not only take this pledge but also to commit to sums far greater than the 50 percent minimum level.”
Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, said the pledge could be a new status symbol.
“It will be something that’s very important to the wealthy — to be able to say, ‘I give my money away as much as I spend it in all of these other exciting ways,'” Palmer told Reuters. “Clearly pressure on the elite is high right now to say that they are giving money away, and that will make it trendy.”
Wall Street Journal wealth columnist Robert Frank said the recession has prompted America’s rich to search for new status symbols.
“Yachts, private jets, seaside mansions are so 2007,” Frank wrote. “But being wealthy enough and generous enough to get on the Giving Pledge list may quickly become the ultimate badge of status — both in the U.S. and abroad.”
Bradford Smith of the Foundation Center said the pledge at least would be a productive use of billions.
“If philanthropy is indeed becoming the new status symbol of the wealthy, it will do a lot more to change the world than buying Gucci bags,” he told Reuters.