Wyoming ‘Faith-Based’ Funds Draw Questions

Wyoming state government has come under scrutiny for doling out public dollars to religious organizations.

The Wyoming Constitution has a provision that states, “No money of the state shall ever be given or appropriated to any sectarian or religious society or institution.” Nonetheless, Gov. Dave Freudenthal and Attorney General Pat Crank have defended state grants to a Baptist church and other religious organizations.

According to a report by the Associated Press, the state has been funneling public dollars to religious groups via a private organization called Faith Initiatives of Wyoming (FIW).

The news service reported that the Wyoming Department of Family Services has an $80,000 contract with FIW, a company headed by an ordained minister. Beyond helping the Baptist group improve its community center, FIW has provided public dollars to LifeChoice Pregnancy Center, whose Web site describes the group as “an outreach ministry of Jesus Christ.”

In late May, Freudenthal told reporters he was “fairly comfortable” with the state’s financing of religious groups. The AP reported that Crank does not believe the Wyoming Constitution provides an “absolute” bar against the public funding of religious groups.