Thursday, June 25, 2009

AU Wants Justice Department To Revoke or Modify Questionable Grants

Americans United yesterday released a letter (full text) that it has sent to Attorney General Eric Holder challenging nine separate Juvenile Justice and Byrne Law Enforcement Assistance grants that were funded by the Department of Justice through Congressional earmarks in fiscal 2008. The letter asks that five of the grants-- involving drug prevention and at-risk youths-- be terminated. It asks that four others-- involving transitional housing, juvenile offenders, at-risk youth and funding of a medical building also housing a college chapel-- either be terminated or modified to include appropriate safeguards. The letter raises Establishment Clause questions about the nine grants, claiming that grantees are using federal funds for religious activities or that they engage in religious-based hiring in staffing the grant programs. The letter urges the Obama administration to revoke a 2007 memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel concluding that requiring a grantee to comply with religious non-discrimination in hiring provisions of the Safe Streets Act would substantially burden its free exercise of religion in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (See prior posting.)