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January 2003 Issue #94


Judge Awards Damages In Beaumont
Clergy In Schools Case


A judge who ruled last summer that Beaumont I.S.D.’s Clergy in the Schools counseling program was unconstitutional (see September 2002 Let Freedom Ring News) has ordered the school district to pay the plaintiffs more than $200,000 for their attorney’s fees and costs. Scott Newar, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said the judge awarded essentially everything he had asked for since the lawsuit had not sought compensatory damages.

The district has appealed the case to the Fifth Circuit. The Beaumont Enterprise called on the district to drop this “pointless face-saving exercise.”

President Bush Acts To
Implement Charitable Choice

Pres. Bush has continued using his executive powers to implement key elements of his faith-based initiative. Last month, he announced several actions to stop “discrimination against faith-based groups” by executive branch agencies.

Bush signed an executive order directing specified federal agencies to ensure that their policies governing federal financial assistance for nongovernmental social service programs are consistent with “equal protection” principles. Among the enumerated principles were that neither organizations seeking assistance nor beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries of the programs should be discriminated against based on religion. The order requires that organizations that engage in “inherently religious activities,” such as worship, religious instruction, and proselytization, separate those activities in time and location from federally supported services and not compel participation in them by potential beneficiaries. Additionally, organizations may retain their religious identity, including displaying religious symbols and selecting board members on a religious basis, and may take their faith into account in employment decisions, provided that they do not use direct federal financial assistance to support any inherently religious activities.

Another executive order establishes Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the Department of Agriculture and the Agency for International Development. The centers are directed to take steps to identify and remove all “barriers to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the delivery of social services by the agency” and to increase those groups’ participation in federal, state and local initiatives. They join existing centers at the Departments of Education, Justice, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development.

The President ordered FEMA to revise its policy on disaster relief to allow religious nonprofit groups to qualify for such aid. The White House issued a guidebook explaining how faith-based groups can qualify for government grants.

Bush's speech announcing these actions, the executive orders, and a White House fact sheet on them are at

Bush Faith-Based Plan Has Failed In Texas,
Texas Group Warns

In a new report, The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund asserts that Pres. Bush’s faith-based initiative in Texas has “proven to be a treacherous enterprise for houses of worship, taxpayers, and people in need,” yet he is pursuing the same model at the national level. The report is entitled The Texas Faith-Based Initiative at Five Years: Warning Signs as President Bush Expands Texas-Style Program to National Level. It reviews the 1996 federal law that began the charitable choice movement, actions taken in Texas to promote charitable choice, and the impact of licensing and regulation changes.

The report cites measures Bush has taken at both state and national levels, including “diverting public funds to religious social service programs while simultaneously loosening regulations over faith-based providers;” creating faith-based offices or liaisons in key agencies to review agency policies, identify perceived regulatory barriers, and increase faith-based partnerships; and promoting his program through both regulatory and legislative means. It concluded, “After five years of aggressively implementing the Bush-led Faith-Based Initiative in Texas, positive results have proven impossible to document or measure. Evidence points instead to a system that is unregulated, prone to favoritism and co-mingling of funds, and even dangerous to the very people it is supposed to serve.” The Texas record shows, it contends, that “loosening regulations over faith-based providers has not served the faith community at large, but has instead provided a refuge for facilities with a history of regulatory violations, a theological objection to state oversight and a higher rate of abuse and neglect,” “has endangered people in need and lowered standards of client health, safety and quality of care” by exempting some providers from state licensing requirements, and “has allowed physical diseases” like alcohol and drug addiction “to go medically untreated.” The report charges further that “regulatory changes have resulted in preferential treatment of faith-based providers in government contracting opportunities, taxpayer funds have been co-mingled with church funds and spent on overtly religious activities, and clients have been ordered by the courts to attend unlicensed faith-based providers.”

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund “supports research and education efforts in support of religious freedom and individual liberties.” Its report is available online at

Texas Lawsuit Challenging Charitable
Choice Law Ends

A Texas lawsuit believed to the first constitutional challenge to a “charitable choice” contract and the statute authorizing such contracts has ended without a ruling on the statute’s constitutionality. The American Jewish Congress and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed the suit over a job-training program run by the Jobs Partnership of Washington County in Brenham. They alleged that “Protestant evangelical Christianity permeates” the program and proselytizing played a major role. The president of Jobs Partnership acknowledged that religion played a major role in its program. The plaintiffs asked the court to declare the contract unconstitutional, order Jobs Partnership to repay funds received under the contract, prohibit any further payment of tax dollars to the group, and prohibit the state from entering into other programs that “promote religious doctrine or engage in religious discrimination in employment.” They also asked the court to invalidate the federal charitable choice law, which the state invoked to justify its program.

The lawsuit went back and forth between federal and state courts and up on appeal twice. Finally, according to the American Jewish Congress, it was dismissed on the ground that there was no live controversy. The Jobs Partnership’s contract had expired and there was no showing that it would ever again contract with the state. No damages were awarded. The Liberty Legal Institute, the legal division of Texas’ Free Market Foundation, represented Jobs Partnership in the lawsuit.

Most Americans Believe
First Amendment "Goes Too Far" Says Poll

Forty-nine percent of all Americans agreed that "the First Amendment goes too far in the rights that it guarantees" in a survey conducted last fall by the First Amendment Center. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points. The result is up from 39% in a poll the center conducted in 2001 before the terrorist attacks and more than double the 22% who agreed with it 2000.


Quote of the Month

" The notion of separating church and state with such policies as disallowing prayer in public schools is a deception from Satan. If God is in fact separated from the government, then we can never possibly have a godly government. There's no way for America to be good if she's not godly. "

Joyce Meyer, president of Joyce Meyer Ministries, cosponsor of Christian Coalition’s 2002 Road to Victory conference, at the conference, Oct. 2002.

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