Three Groups Join Foundation Faith Works Fight (December 2002)

Three groups have filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s appeal challenging indirect public funding of an overtly religious social services group.

The American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed the brief on Nov. 29, in support of the Foundation’s appeal of its Faith Works case before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Last January, the Foundation won its nationally significant challenge of more than $700,000 in direct public funding of Faith Works of Milwaukee, whose purpose is to lead “addicts to Christ.”

The state did not appeal. The Foundation’s case was the first challenge in the nation of so-called “charitable choice” funding to be fully adjudicated and won.

However, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb deferred a decision about indirect funding of Faith Works until June, when she ruled the state of Wisconsin could contract indirectly with Faith Works for more than $170,000 to work with men on parole or probation.

The Foundation has appealed the second part of Crabb’s decision, which she based on the recent Supreme Court case approving tax-paid vouchers for use at parochial schools. Crabb said government aid to religious institutions is constitutional if it is a result of “genuine and independent private choice.”

The friend of the court brief agrees with the Foundation that men in custody of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections are not free to make an independent choice, but are “strongly influenced to enroll in Faith Works.”
Oral arguments will be heard early next year in Chicago.

“If the wall of separation between government and religion is not to be destroyed, it is very important that courts recognize now what is going on with this administration,” said Anne Gaylor, Foundation President.

“Faith-based initiatives not only will ruin the wall of separation, but the economy as well. There will be a wholesale assault on public funds by religious groups whose raison d’etre is proselytizing.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation