WASHINGTON (RNS) The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the U.S. Agency for International Development for not providing information about “religiously infused” abstinence programs the agency has funded.
The lawsuit, which was filed Thursday (Feb. 18), follows a report last July from USAID’s inspector general that found “some USAID funds were used for religious activities” during 2006 and 2007.
According to its complaint, the ACLU twice filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act seeking documents related to programs that promoted sexual abstinence. USAID acknowledged receiving the requests but never responded by sending the requested documents.
“The United States government cannot be in the business of exporting religiously infused abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that we know fail to give young people the information they need to stay healthy,”
said Brigitte Amiri, an attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project.
“It is essential that the government provide all of the information it has about these programs so that the public has a full accounting of how taxpayer dollars are being spent.”
The inspector general report said USAID funded an abstinence program for HIV/AIDS prevention for African youth whose curriculum included Psalm 119:9 as a Bible memory verse. “God has a plan for sex and this plan will help you and protect you from harm,” the curriculum said.
ACLU spokesman Will Matthews said Wednesday the ACLU had not yet received a response to its suit from USAID.
When the inspector general report was released, a USAID spokesperson said its results are “not supported by the facts and is an unsupported legal conclusion regarding the constitutional requirement of separation of church and state.”
By Adelle M. Banks
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