A proposal being considered by the Marathon County Board (Wis.) to replace secular public health care with a religiously oriented crisis pregnancy center must be rejected, urges the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
In a recent action, the Marathon County Board voted to reduce the budget for its public and secular health care program known as Nurse Family Partnership Program from $600,000 to only $140,000. The board is now considering filling the gap for community pregnancy and newborn services with a crisis pregnancy center named Hope Life Center.
Hope Life Center partners with a Christian retreat program named Deeper Still. The website describes its partnership with Deeper Still in a statement on its website, saying that “God brings healing to people in a variety of ways.” Deeper Still’s statement of faith includes references to a Christian belief system that would be imposed on secular and non-Christian individuals.
Hope Life Center promotes faith-based care in place of scientific research, providing pregnant women with inadequate education on pregnancies, contends FFRF. The Center for Reproductive Rights has found that crisis pregnancy centers have spread misinformation to women about pregnancies and abortions. These claims include the patently false assertion that abortion causes breast cancer and sterility. Several studies have revealed that crisis pregnancy centers incorrectly teach teenagers condoms are an ineffective form of birth control and STI prevention and instead speciously assert they can cause mental illness.
Organizations with such a mindset would replace current programs in Marathon County that provide more accurate pregnancy care for women and would also push a Christian program onto secular and non-Christian women. This would needlessly alienate and fail to adequately serve Marathon County residents who are part of the 37 percent of Americans who are non-Christians, including the nearly one in three Americans who now identify as religiously unaffiliated.
“While Marathon County’s citizens are certainly free to seek out religious organizations’ support and services, facilitating that relationship is beyond the scope of a secular government,” FFRF Legal Fellow Samantha Lawrence writes to Kurt Gibbs, chair of the Marathon County Board of Supervisors. “By partnering with and leading citizens to an explicitly Protestant Christian organization, the county will signal blatant favoritism towards Christianity.”
That’s why FFRF is asking the county not to proceed further with the proposed tie-up.
“The board must reject the proposal to replace the secular and publicly funded Nurse Family Partnership Program with Hope Life Center,” FFRF writes. “It is both unconstitutional and poor policy for Marathon County to direct vulnerable residents seeking reproductive health services to an overtly religious organization that does not even reliably provide scientifically accurate medical information.”
You can read the full FFRF letter here.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Wisconsin-based nonprofit with more than 40,000 members across the country, including over 1,600 members in Wisconsin. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters related to nontheism.