Americans United Files Lawsuit over 'Faith-Based' Marriage Counseling

Church & State, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Americans United Files Lawsuit over 'Faith-Based' Marriage Counseling


Americans United last month filed a lawsuit against a taxpayer-funded program in Vancouver, Wash., that provides "Bible-based" marriage education programs.

The Northwest Marriage Institute received two federal grants totalling $97,750 in 2005. A $50,000 grant came from the Compassion Capital Fund, a type of "slush fund" that the White House uses to dole out "faith-based" grants to religious organizations, and a $47,750 sub-grant from the Institute for Youth Development, a non-profit organization that has also accepted federal funding.

In court documents filed Sept. 12, Americans United charges that the Northwest Marriage Institute runs a thoroughly religious program saturated with a fundamentalist view of Christianity.

"This program trains people in how to make their marriages conform to one narrow interpretation of faith," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The federal government has no business forcing the taxpayer to subsidize that."

Research undertaken by AU attorneys shows that the program used taxpayer money to set up a Web site rife with fundamentalist dogma. Bible passages are used to buttress its views, and the site insists that the Bible mandates that husbands run their households.

Asserts the AU complaint, "The Marriage Institute uses the federal taxpayer dollars it receives...directly for religious purposes--to create materials with explicitly religious content, to purchase supplies and equipment used in religious programming and to pay a portion of the salaries of the employees who conduct the Bible-based counseling."

AU's legal complaint in the Christianson v. Leavitt lawsuit also asserts that no adequate safeguards exist to prevent taxpayer funds from being used for religious purposes. …

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