A few weeks ago, in McLennan County, Texas, Sheriff Parnell McNamara announced that his staff had arrested at least 56 sex workers and johns in the largest ever sting of that nature in his department’s history. More to the point, he claimed that his department was sending nine of the women to UnBound, a Christian ministry that helps victims of sex trafficking.
Setting aside the debate over whether these women should have been arrested in the first place, there was no good reason to turn them over to a religious organization that thinks it’s helping people by trying to convert them. The Freedom From Religion Foundation was notified and they’ve been in contact with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office over this matter.
The bad news is that FFRF won’t be pursuing this case any further.
The good news is that there’s a valid reason for that.
According to the office’s legal advisor, Sheriff McNamara was overstating the relationship between his department and UnBound when speaking to the press:
… [This concern] is the result of unfortunate wording used by the Sheriff in speaking to the press.
In short, no victims are forced to go to UnBound. If they request the group’s assistance, that’s one thing. It’s also possible UnBound may be contacted (along with other secular organizations) to help provide shelter and transportation if the victim has those needs. But it’s not like the Sheriff’s Office is promoting them or Christianity in any problematic way.
It’s kind of like when courts offer Alcoholics Anonymous as an option for people who are arrested for DUIs and need to go through a substance abuse program as part of their punishment. It’s one option, but it can’t be the only option since it’s a religious organization.
While the legal advisor added that UnBound officials may be present at raids — a privilege that doesn’t seem to be afforded to other group representatives — there’s no evidence of proselytizing taking place. So, at least for now, this issue appears to be resolved.
(Image via Shutterstock)