Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Christian Organization Challenges Grant Rule Barring Religious Favoritism in Hiring

Suit was filed this week in an Oregon federal district court challenging an anti-discrimination rule of the Oregon Department of Education that disqualified a Christian youth-mentoring ministry from receiving $410,000 in grants for which it had initially been selected. The Christian group requires all of its board members, its 30 employees and 100+ volunteers to adhere to the organization's Statement of Faith. The Grant Program's rule bars grantees from favoring co-religionists as employees or volunteers. The complaint (full text) in Yourh 71Five Ministries v. Williams, (D OR, filed 3/4/2024), contends that the rule violates its Free Exercise and Free Expression rights, saying in part:

Because it emphasizes one-to-one mentoring and creating authentic, trusting relationships, 71Five Ministries depends on its staff and volunteers to fulfill the ministry’s distinctly Christian mission and purpose....

Defendants cannot disqualify otherwise eligible religious organizations from participation in otherwise available government benefit programs, including the Youth Community Investment Grant Program, “solely because of their religious character,”

ADF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.