For Immediate Release
Fundamentalist Group Drops Public Funding Windfall After Americans United Protest
Kentucky Arm of 'Teen Challenge' Gives Up $50,000 Federal Grant
WASHINGTON - A fundamentalist Christian group that claims to help young people overcome drug and alcohol addiction through Bible study and prayer has given up a federal grant after Americans United for Separation of Church and State protested the funding.
Attorneys with Americans United wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in June, noting that a $50,000 grant to Teen Challenge of Kentucky raised serious constitutional issues. The money was allocated through the Compassion Capital Fund, a special program created as part of President George W. Bush's "faith-based" initiative.
Teen Challenge, Americans United pointed out, requires participants to take part in prayer, worship, Bible study and other religious activities. Program participants must sign a "Civil Rights Waiver" in which each surrenders the right to "exercis[e] the religion of my choice."
Applicants for the program are required to describe their Christian faith and agree to conduct themselves in a "Christ-like manner." The organization vows to offer "deliverance from addiction through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and practical application of Biblical principles."
Public funding of such sectarian activities, Americans United asserted, would clearly violate the First Amendment.
In response to Americans United's letter, an official with HHS wrote to say that Teen Challenge "voluntarily terminated" its participation in the program.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said he was pleased with the outcome but noted that Teen Challenge should never have received public funds in the first place.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
If you think a better world is possible, support our people-powered media model today
The corporate media puts the interests of the 1% ahead of all of us. That's wrong. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.
If you believe the survival of independent media is vital to a healthy democracy, please step forward with a donation to nonprofit Common Dreams today:
"Teen Challenge boasts about its program being saturated with fundamentalist Christianity and makes it clear that required participation in religious activities is key to its approach," Lynn said. "I cannot imagine a worse candidate for tax funding.
"Bush administration officials have claimed that they do not fund religious activities, but this grant suggests otherwise," he continued. "Apparently their policy is to do it until they get caught."
Lynn noted that while Teen Challenge and other fundamentalist "faith-based" groups often claim high rates of success, no empirical data backs up the claim.
"Tax funds were being funneled to this organization even though it openly boasts about its religious content, and there's no evidence its approach even works," Lynn said. "This incident is a perfect example of what's so wrong with faith-based initiatives."
AU Senior Litigation Counsel Alex Luchenitser, who handled the AU complaint about the funding, said, "This was a clear example of unconstitutional support of religious coercion and discrimination. I'm glad we were able to bring the matter to an appropriate conclusion."
This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.
Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news outlet. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.
Please select a donation method: