U.S. Funded Religion Overseas, Report Says

The federal government used tax dollars to pay for religious activities in Iraq and Africa in 2006 and 2007, according to a recent audit of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).


Despite a prohibition on the use of taxpayer money to support “inherently religious activities,” USAID reportedly spent $325,000 for the rehabilitation of four mosques in Fallujah, Iraq. The report also cited concerns that reliance on Bible passages during HIV/AIDS prevention programs in Africa could be seen as showing a “USAID-funded preference for Christianity.”


A spokesperson for USAID said the results of the audit are “not supported by the facts and is an unsupported legal conclusion regarding the constitutional requirement of separation of church and state.” The agency claims its goals are secular.


There are few court rulings in this area. In Lamont v. Woods (1991), the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a USAID plan to spend millions to build religious schools in Israel and other nations.


However, the court in Lamont left open the possibility that in some rare cases, the government might be able to justify tax aid to religious institutions overseas, if it can prove a “compelling” need to do so.