Faith-based Funding Costing Taxpayers Unparalleled Sums

Statement by Freedom From Religion Foundation on Legal Victory against Public Funding of “Faith-based” Agencies

Federal Judge Barbara Crabb’s decision on January 7, 2002, is a victory for all of us who devoutly believe that direct public funding of ministries and pervasively sectarian groups by our government is a dangerous and unconstitutional step.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation v. McCallum is the first case to be adjudicated challenging public funding of faith-based initiatives. Ours is a significant victory for the First Amendment, and creates nationwide precedent against tax funding of pervasively religious institutions.

One million dollars has been wrongfully and unconstitutionally spent by our government to make possible a ministry devoted to bringing “homeless addicts directly to Christ,” Faith Works’ raison d’etre, by self-description.

This is money–mostly from the federal Temporary Aid to Needy Families–that should have been spent to help the poor through tested, secular and accountable social service agencies. This misspent money can never be recovered.

The massive and unexamined give-away of public funds to groups with religious agendas is costing taxpayers unparalleled sums. Violations of the First Amendment are bleeding taxpayers in an era fraught with deficits and painful funding cuts.

Initial news reports and Crabb’s decision suggested the total amount granted to Faith Works through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development was limited to the $600,000 initially allotted in 1998 and 1999 by then-Gov. Tommy Thompson.

In fact, an additional $280,000 was granted to Faith Works in August 2001 under Gov. Scott McCallum, making direct subsidy to Faith Works $880,000. Still under litigation and awaiting trial is the Foundation’s challenge of additional state funding through the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, which puts total taxpayer funding of Faith Works at over $1 million.

Faith Works was blessed by candidate George W. Bush during an August 2000 campaign stop to the Milwaukee convent which it rents, as the type of faith-based group to which Bush intends to funnel millions and millions of tax dollars. As our lawsuit has shown, it is precisely this type of ministry which should not be opened and operated with tax dollars.

The Religious Right plans to unite church and state under the pretense that throwing tax money at religion is the only answer to complex social problems. This victory sends a powerful message to such politicians. Taxpayers must not be tithed by their government to support ministries against their consent, nor should the needy be coerced to pray in exchange for needed social services.

We hope our Faith Works challenge will be just the first of many successful challenges of this misguided scheme to inaugurate government-funded indoctrination.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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