FFRF Sues over New Indiana State Chaplain

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is launching a new faith-based lawsuit in Indiana, challenging the creation of a chaplaincy for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA).

The FSSA hired Pastor Michael L. Latham, a Baptist minister, in 2006, at a salary of $60,000 a year, paid with revenue from state taxpayers.

The job description states that Rev. Latham serves as the Chaplain for the Family and Social Services Administration and functions as a staff advisor on all problems involving spiritual needs of the employees. He also serves as the strategic director for policy, procedures and communication efforts on faith-based services. The position reports directly to the FSSA Chief of Staff.”

The job description requires the chaplain to be an “ordained or licensed minister in good standing with a recognized religious denomination or group” and to have “expert knowledge of current standards and practices of religious and faith-based community service groups.”

His duties include:

  • ministering and counseling FSSA employees, contractors, etc., to connect with compassion with serving FSSA clients;
  • developing a statewide network of volunteer ministers to serve as liaisons on information “related to religious services and faith-based community involvement”
  • developing workshops to “train and educate FSSA staff on encouraging a faithful environment in the workplace”
  • participating in outreach efforts to faith-based organizations
  • preparing and presenting faith-based services at statewide stakeholder meetings, and for legislators and service providers

It is the Foundation’s understanding there is no FSSA employee responsible for development of a statewide network of secular volunteers to counsel employees and contractors.

The Foundation’s legal complaint maintains the program is “inherently religious.”

“Paying a member of the clergy with taxpayer money to provide religious, faith-based counseling and to develop a statewide network of volunteer ministers to do the same has no secular purpose.” The Foundation points out this “fosters an excessive entanglement with religion.”

The lawsuit seeks enjoin the state from funding, creating or maintaining the program.

Freedom From Religion Foundation