Clinical Trial: Taxpayer Funds Supported Bachmann’s ‘Christ-Centered’ Counseling Effort

“This appears to be a textbook case of taxpayers’ funds for religious purposes.” -- AU Senior Litigation Counsel Alex J. Luchenitser

Prominent critic of church-state separation and Religious Right darling U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is back in the news.

According to the Minnesota Independent, Bachmann and her husband, Dr. Marcus Bachmann, have used $30,000 in state funds since 2007 to run a counseling center that “uses counseling methods steeped in fundamentalist Christianity.”

The news report indicates that the clinic, Bachmann and Associates, Inc., has been receiving government funds to treat low-income Minnesotans for mental health and substance-abuse problems, but it has done so by using biblical principles and Christian counseling.

“We are distinctly a Christian counseling agency here in the Twin Cities,” Marcus Bachmann told KKMS radio in 2008. “We have 27 Christian counselors, Christ-centered, very strong in our understanding of who the Almighty Counselor is, and as we rely on God’s word and the Almighty Counselor, we have the opportunity to change people’s lives.”

All of the clinic’s counselors identify themselves as Christian and most, if not all, abide by fundamentalist Christian mission statements in their treatment of patients.

“Jesus as the Son of God is the Savior, Healer, and intimate Lover of my soul,” said one therapist on the clinic’s Web site. “He invites those He calls to join Him on a personal journey to the Cross. Our entire being is healed and restored (body, soul, and spirit) as we surrender ‘our way’ for ‘His way.’”

AU’s Senior Litigation Counsel Alex J. Luchenitser told the online publication that there are some serious constitutional issues with the Bachmann’s clinic using taxpayer funds to proselytize or push a particular faith.

“It’s wrong for the government to buy clinical services that include submission to God or proselytization,” he said. “This appears to be a textbook case of taxpayers’ funds for religious purposes.”

Luchenitser added that it would be even more problematic if the Bachmanns only hired Christian employees while taking government funding.

“That would be religious discrimination,” he said.

The fact that Bachmann and her husband have no problems using taxpayer funds to push their religious dogma is not surprising. Bachmann has always been a favorite of the Religious Right and has been very vocal about her “faith-based values.”

Just a couple weeks ago, Bachmann attempted to add language to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act giving military chaplains the right to push their personal beliefs at events where personnel from many faiths (and none) are present.

Bachmann also joined in as a sponsor to a House Resolution affirming the National Day of Prayer as constitutional and part of America’s historical traditions. She said the district court’s decision ruling the day unconstitutional was “patently absurd.”

And the representative has been very vocal about her feelings on church electioneering, stating that she is sick of “radical leftist organizations” that “intimidate Christians” from speaking about politics from the pulpit.

But despite all this, we would like to think that Bachmann, as a member of Congress, knows better than to take state funds to run a sectarian organization. Catholic Charities and other groups may receive government funding, but they must keep their religious activities separate from their social services.

It doesn’t look like the Bachmanns are doing that. If the clinic wants state funds, it must perform secular social services – not proselytize or discriminate in hiring. It’s as simple as that.