AU Urges Obama Administration to Probe Ten Religion Earmarks
Americans United has called on the Obama administration to investigate 10 earmarks for religious schools and ministries that raise constitutional issues about inappropriate public funding of religion.
In an April 22 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and three other cabinet officers, Americans United urged the administration to examine the congressional earmarks and block the funding unless appropriate legal safeguards can be put in place.
Earmarks are appropriations of tax money that are targeted to specific organizations or projects. They are often appended to large spending bills by legislators seeking to curry favor with certain voting blocs.
AU says the grants are problematic when they are aimed at sectarian projects.
"Taxpayers should never be forced to support religion," said Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "Congress should not approve earmark funding for projects that advance religion. Religious pork is bad for America's constitutional health."
The targeted earmarks include:
* Atlanta Christian College (East Point, Ga.): $350,000 for curriculum development and technology upgrades. The college seeks to "educate students for Christ-centered service and leadership throughout the world" and "every degree includes a major or minor in Biblical Studies."
* Beth Medrash Govoha (Lakewood, N.J.): $275,000 for an initiative to expand the rabbinical school's job training and career counseling services. The services focus on preparing its students to be teachers and administrators in secondary Torah schools and institutions of higher Talmudic studies as practicing rabbis and as experts in rabbinical jurisprudence.
* Grace College and Theological Seminary (Winona Lake, Ind.): $150,000 for curriculum development, technology upgrades and additional course offerings. Grace College is an evangelical Christian liberal arts college that discriminates among applicants based on religion.
* Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch (Minot, N.D.): $475,000 from the U.S. Department of education to expand a program for high-risk elementary school students. The Christian ministry's programs include prayer, Bible studies, counseling and discussion concerning God's plan for participants. The facility also received a $200,000 Juvenile Justice grant from the Department of Justice to fund the same programs.
* Men of Valor Academy (Oakland, Calif.): $100,000 to expand building trades instruction that can only be taken by individuals who first complete a program that includes Christian teachings.
* Team Focus, Inc. (Mobile Ala.): four earmarks for mentoring projects in four states: $500,000 each for projects in South Carolina and Alabama, $400,000 for one in Mississippi, and $100,000 for one in Texas. Team Focus is a faith-based non-profit organization that apparently includes Bible study and prayer in its mentoring programs for young men. …