Lynn v. Sekulow



While we wait to hear what happens in Congress over the
health care bill, I thought we may move on to another topic.  


I’d like to discuss an important issue that Americans United
has been working on for years – faith-based funding. Over the
weekend, AU’s senior litigation counsel Alex Luchenitser was quoted in the Minnesota Independent about a drug
treatment program that has received more than $10 million in government funds.
This wouldn’t be alarming except the program, Teen Challenge, describes itself
as a “para-church” ministry” whose “purpose is to train individuals (students)…to
be disciples of Jesus Christ.”

The government has entered into a contract with Teen
Challenge to perform drug addiction treatment services. But it’s always been a
problem for the group to separate the treatment from the Christian orientation
and beliefs of the organization. And over time, the state has showed “clear
favoritism” for the religious group by singling the program out for a raise in
funding, despite its pervasively sectarian nature.

What’s even worse is that Teen Challenge said it will hire
only Christians that adhered to the statement of faith and code of ethics. The
organization stated that “whether a person is preparing a meal, writing a
computer program or generating a financial statement for the organization,”
that person must “be an effective witness for Christ.”

This program demonstrates all that can go wrong when
religious organizations receive state funding without accountability
measures set in place to monitor that the funding is not going to discriminate in hiring
or proselytizing.

Americans United already challenged in the court the
InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a publicly supported, pervasively religious
program in Iowa’s Newton Correctional Facility. Inmates who participated in IFI
were housed in a separate prison unit, where they were immersed in “24-hour
per day Christ-centered Bible-based programming” conducted by IFI
employees, who were required by policy to be Christian. Americans United won
the case at the district level and on appeal.

Yet still, we have faith-based programs taking government
funds while pushing religious beliefs, and at the same time discriminating in
hiring practices. This needs to stop. There are plenty of service organizations
that do not push religion and deserve the funding. But if a religiously based organization must receive
funding to perform these social services, we should at the least make sure that it does not use that
money to further a religious practice. Don’t you agree?

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