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WASHINGTON (RNS) The federal government used taxpayer dollars to rebuild mosques in Iraq and teach Bible-based abstinence in Africa, violating a prohibition on funding “inherently religious activities,”
according to a recent audit of the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID).
The report by the agency’s inspector general, released Wednesday (July 22), said “some USAID funds were used for religious activities”
during 2006 and 2007.
USAID disputed those claims, and a spokesperson said the results are “not supported by the facts and is an unsupported legal conclusion regarding the constitutional requirement of separation of church and state.”
According to the report, USAID funded an abstinence-promoting HIV/AIDS prevention program for youth in Africa with curriculum that included Psalm 119:9 as a Bible “memory verse” and a take-away thought that said, “God has a plan for sex and this plan will help you and protect you from harm.” USAID later told the grant recipient that their funds could not be used in conjunction with the program.
A second instance concerned the rebuilding of four mosques damaged by the U.S. military in Fallujah, Iraq, at a price tag of $325,000; after the audit, the agency reportedly refused to pay $44,531 of that money to a contractor.
The report raised questions of whether the constitutional principal of church-state separation applies in other countries, and whether diplomatic advances and foreign policy trump official governmental support of religion.
Rob Boston, spokesman for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said, “I’ll concede the issue is a little murky.”
But, Boston added, “If it’s illegal for the government to build houses of worship in the U.S., that rule should be in effect in other nations.”
In 2007, USAID requested clarification from the Department of Justice on the legality of such funding and has yet to receive a response. In compliance with the audit, agency officials met with a representative of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on April 21 to “discuss issues raised by the audit.”
— Tiffany Stanley
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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