The U.S. Department of Justice offers grant money to organizations that assist in solving problems like human trafficking. For years, the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach was one group that got money from the government because they were doing good (secular) work in that area.
But last September, according to a report by Sarah N. Lynch at Reuters, Catholic Charities and another longtime grant recipient were taken off the list… and replaced with two organizations that had no track record of doing good work to prevent human trafficking.
One of them, Hookers for Jesus, is an explicitly Christian group that works to proselytize to victims. (The other is run by a donor to Donald Trump.)
In other words, the Republican government stopped giving money to a Catholic group that has ties to the Democratic Party even though the work they were doing was apolitical… in order to fund a right-wing evangelical group that wouldn’t normally be considered worthy of the cash.
Hookers for Jesus, which received $530,190 over three years, is run by a born-again Christian trafficking survivor who has lobbied against decriminalizing prostitution, a policy position aligning with many in the Republican Party.
Hookers for Jesus operates a safe house for female adult trafficking victims that, in 2010 and in 2018, maintained a policy of requiring guests to participate in religious activities, internal program manuals obtained by Reuters through public records requests show.
The safe house’s manuals had rules that included a ban on reading “secular magazines with articles, pictures, etc. that portray worldly views/advice on living, sex, clothing, makeup tips.” Other rules limited everything from who victims could call to banning them from bringing their purses with them on weekly shopping trips. Rule-breakers could be penalized by being assigned chores such as washing windows.
This grant isn’t just a waste of money. It’s not just evidence of how little this administration cares about sex trafficking. It’s illegal.
If the policies described in the 2018 manuals continue after the federal grant money is dispersed, they would likely violate anti-discrimination laws that prohibit using federal funding to engage in explicitly religious activities, some lawyers said.
“The fact the federal government is funding this is problematic,” said Dallas Hammer, an attorney specializing in discrimination law. “The decision-makers here could be walking the federal government right into a clear violation of the First Amendment,” which protects freedom of religion.
The government’s justification for this decision is that they wanted to spread the grant money out geographically… but that distinction doesn’t usually come into play unless there are two groups that are equally deserving of the grant. This group wasn’t equally deserving — by the DOJ’s own system, where reviewers said they didn’t have experience handling victims who were underage, male, or foreign — but it got the money anyway.
It’s the latest example of Republicans handing out money to right-wing Christian organizations instead of more deserving groups. This is taxpayer money being used to pressure people to adopt Christianity if they want to escape human trafficking. It’s downright cruel.
This is what happens when your government cares more about God than evidence. It’s corrupt. It’s a waste. It allows real problems to fester. And it’s all because conservative Christians have taken over the administration.
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