Congress Passes Over 140 Overtly Religious Earmarks Worth Almost $30 Million
The Secular Coalition for America has researched the budget for fiscal year 2008 which was passed by congress and determined that over 140 earmarks , or special directed funding to a project, worth almost $30 million dollars, are going to constitutionally suspect religious activities. Before you blame the “religious right,” both parties favor religious earmarks. Some of the largest recipients of earmarks for religious activities include higher education institutions and addiction recovery programs, including Minnesota Teen Challenge*. Minnesota Teen Challenge is closely tied with the Assemblies of God, the world’s largest Pentecostal organization. Richard Scherber, Executive Director in 2004, had this to say about the success of his treatment facility; “The combination of our program length, our curriculum and most importantly, the role of faith in Jesus Christ to change hearts, all come together to result in these renewed lives.” Ministries are also among groups receiving federal dollars.
The Secular Coalition for America has sent a letter to members of Congress who are responsible for these potentially unconstitutional funding projects. These activities are clear evidence that Faith-based Initiatives and Charitable Choice must be rejected by the next President to ensure an equal playing field between secular organizations and religious organizations which play by the rules and those who do not and violate the seperation of church and state.
*Minnesota Teen Challenge Director of Administration, Eric Vagle, has provided this statement in response to allegations that any federal monies will be used by his organization for religious purposes:
“Minnesota Teen Challenge is scheduled to receive a direct grant from the federal government to be used exclusively for a non-religious drug and alcohol abuse prevention program. This program contains no religious content whatsoever and has been presented to over 30,000 junior and senior high school students across the state. Minnesota Teen Challenge is aware of, and in agreement with the constitutional restrictions placed on receipt of government funds. We take great care to ensure that all federal money is strictly accounted for and that none of the dollars are ever used for religious purposes.”