AU Urges Attorney General To Block Funding For Religious ‘Earmarks’

Americans United has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to take action about nine federal grants awarded to faith-based groups that proselytize and that discriminate in hiring.


An AU investigation revealed that during the 2008 fiscal year, Congress approved earmarks that directed the U.S. Department of Justice to award grants to several religious organizations. The Department of Justice, under the Bush administration, approved the constitutionally dubious funding without conducting anything more than a cursory review. 


In its June 24 letter, Americans United asked Holder to reverse the Bush-era funding decisions.


“In providing these grants, the U.S. Department of Justice is unconstitutionally aiding religion,” said Barry W. Lynn, Americans United’s executive director. “There’s no reason why organizations that evangelize or that discriminate in hiring on religious grounds should ever receive a penny from the government, let alone millions of dollars.”


Americans United asked for the termination of grants to the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, Detroit, Mich; Albany Teen Challenge, Albany, N.Y.; Central Indiana Teen Challenge, Lebanon, Ind.; Minnesota Teen Challenge, Minneapolis, Minn.; and New Hope Academy Teen Challenge, Factoryville, Pa.


AU’s letter also asks that four other grants be discontinued, unless a DOJ investigation determines that the grants can be rendered lawful through the addition of strict safeguards against use of the funds to support religion.


The AU letter was drafted by AU Madison Fellow Jef Klazen, under the direction of AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and AU Senior Litigation Counsel Alex J. Luchenitser.