Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Teen Challenge Not Allowed to Receive Federal Funding?

Teen Challenge Minnesota is a faith-based group that has done tremendous work with teens (and adults of all ages) to deal with chemical dependency and other destructive behaviors. Former U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad had arranged for Federal funds of $235,000 (as part of a much larger bill) to be used for this group. On June 24, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed the complaint with Attorney General Eric Holder saying this money should be revoked because of the religious nature of the program.

The "separation of church and state" argument is often used these days, even though it is not found in the U.S. Constitution. Those who use it say it represents the spirit of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Using the phrase that way would come as a surprise to the men who actually wrote and ratified the Amendment, because they often "earmarked" Federal money to go to religious groups or entities. In the eyes of the Founders, the First Amendment was intended to prevent the central government from establishing an official national religion (in addition to protecting the free exercise of religion).

The courts often get this wrong in today's conventional wisdom (at least, that is my opinion). However, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled on a principle about the use of public school facilities. Religious groups are sometimes prevented from using the facilities. But the Court said that if facilities are generally available to other groups, the can not be treated differently for religious groups.

Now the Federal Government has thousands of so-called "earmarks" in some of the bills. These go for all manner of causes and construction. Are we to think that the funds may be used for such a diverse collection, only so long as no religion is involved? In other words, do we exclude a recipient solely on the basis of their religious mission? That does not seem like government neutrality; it seems more like discrimination.

Sometimes I compare actions of the Founding Fathers with similar situations today to show how wrong we are in interpreting the Constitution. In this particular case, there are examples on both side. It would not be hard to quote an example where the Founders were not in favor of allocating funds to a religious organization to do social work. However, in most cases the objection of the Founders to such use of funds would have applied to spending Federal money on the program in the first place, regardless of what organization was implementing it. Simply put, they had a very much more limited idea of the role of the Federal Government than we do today. As much as possible, they wanted the Federal Government to stay out of anything that could be handled at a state/local/personal level.

I found the story here:

1 comment:

Dirk said...

This is really something, but not surprising. This is highly discriminatory, especially when you consider that such discrimination seems to only apply to religions that believe the Bible.