ACLU Sues to Obtain Information About Taxpayer-Funded Religion in Abstinence-Only Programs Overseas

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU Sues to Obtain Information About Taxpayer-Funded Religion in Abstinence-Only Programs Overseas

NEW YORK - The
American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit against the United
States Agency for International Development (USAID) to obtain public
documents detailing its overseas abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs, which a recent Inspector General's report says
unconstitutionally promote religiously infused materials and messages.

"The United States government cannot
be in the business of exporting religiously infused
abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that we know fail to give young
people the information they need to stay healthy," said Brigitte Amiri,
senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "It
is essential that the government provide all of the information it has
about these programs so that the public has a full accounting of how
taxpayer dollars are being spent."

The federal lawsuit was filed in the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after USAID
failed to timely respond to ACLU Freedom of Information Act requests
submitted in July and September 2009 for the documents, as mandated by
law. The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the agency to make the
requested documents publicly available.   

The ACLU is demanding from USAID
materials related to its abstinence-only-until-marriage programs funded
through HIV/AIDS grants, including requests for proposals, contracts
with USAID, curricula used by grantees, communications between USAID
and the White House and communications between USAID and its grantees
about religious instruction in abstinence-only-until-marriage
curricula.

"In the face of a growing global
HIV/AIDS crisis, USAID is not only violating basic constitutional
principles by promoting government-funded religious activities, it is
unconscionably putting young people's health and lives at risk," said
Rose Saxe, staff attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project.

USAID's Office of the Inspector
General released a report last year revealing that USAID has a history
of unconstitutionally funding religious activities in its health and
social service programs. In addition, while USAID has sought guidance
from the Department of Justice about this issue, it is not clear that
the Obama administration has responded adequately to these requests or
has monitored the agency's activities to ensure that taxpayer dollars
do not continue to be misused.

"The Obama administration has
promised transparency as well as government-sponsored programs that are
based on science, not ideology," said Daniel Mach, Director of
Litigation for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.
"USAID's failure to release the documents and its blatant misuse of
taxpayer dollars to export religious programming in
abstinence-only-until-marriage programs fails on both counts and cannot
continue."

Lawyers on the case, ACLUF v. USAID,
include Amiri, Mach, Saxe, Heather L. Weaver of the ACLU Program on
Freedom of Religion and Belief and Galen Sherwin of the New York Civil
Liberties Union.

A copy of today's lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/hiv-aids-religion-belief-reproductive-freedom/acluf-v-usaid-complaint 

The USAID Inspector General's report is available online at: www.usaid.gov/oig/public/fy09rpts/9-000-09-009-p.pdf

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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