A fundamentalist Christian group out of Kentucky, Teen Challenge, who claimed to help teens battle substance abuse through religious study and prayer has voluntarily given up a federal grant after a protest from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Americans United is a non profit organization, that is dedicated to defending the separation of church and state and protecting religious liberty in America.

Teen Challenge, Americans United pointed out, requires participants to take part in prayer, worship, Bible study and other religious activities.  Program participants must sign a “Civil Rights Waiver” in which each surrenders the right to “exercis[e] the religion of my choice.”

The Rev Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said this group should not have  been given federal funds in the first place. The group has no data to back up their claims of a high success rate. “Bush administration officials have claimed that they do not fund religious activities, but this grant suggests otherwise,” he continued. “Apparently their policy is to do it until they get caught.

Attorneys with Americans United wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in June, noting that a $50,000 grant to Teen Challenge of Kentucky raised serious constitutional issues. The money was allocated through the Compassion Capital Fund, a special program created as part of President George W. Bush’s “faith-based” initiative.

“Tax funds were being funneled to this organization even though it openly boasts about its religious content, and there’s no evidence its approach even works,” Lynn said. “This incident is a perfect example of what’s so wrong with faith-based initiatives.”

AU Senior Litigation Counsel Alex Luchenitser said,”This was a clear example of unconstitutional support of religious coercion and discrimination. I’m glad we were able to bring the matter to an appropriate conclusion.”

Rather than fight for their grant in an effort to continue to help these teens, this fundie group just gave in. Not the typical fundie response we are used to, but they got busted by the AU and knew they would lose. This is a perfect example of the discrimination and proselytization that can result from the faith-based initiatives that our federal government has put in place. But with that being said, Americans United has shown us they are fighting against this type of intolerance, and winning. For over 60 years they have been fighting the good fight, and I am proud to be a member of this organization, and I urge all of you to visit AU’s website to learn more.    

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