ACLU of Kentucky Lawsuit Challenges Exclusive $2 Million Government Program for Religious Groups

Affiliate: ACLU of Kentucky
February 27, 2002 12:00 am

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LOUISVILLE, KY–Acting on behalf of three local taxpayers, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky today filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a federally funded grant program that excludes any groups that are not affiliated with “”faith-based””organizations.

“”By requiring grant applicants and recipients to be affiliated with religion, this government-funded program unfairly excludes all organizations doing essentially the same good work,”” said David Friedman, General Counsel of the ACLU of Kentucky.

Filed in federal court on behalf of local residents and taxpayers Dr. Blaine Hudson, Alice Wade and Beth Wilson, the ACLU lawsuit challenges the process by which Louisville Neighborhood Initiative, Inc. solicited applications and approved $2 million in grants. The ACLU is asking the federal court to block disbursement of grant monies to exclusively religious applicants.

The grant guidelines require that eligible projects be “”undertaken by, sponsored by, or developed in partnership with local faith-based organizations”” or result in “”substantial benefits”” for a faith-based partner. Grant monies are to be used in specific Louisville neighborhoods for construction or renovation of housing, institutions such as community centers, or neighborhood-based businesses.

The initiative was created by Rep. Anne Northup (R-Louisville) to distribute $2 million this fiscal year from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). An additional $3 million is scheduled to be available next fiscal year.

The ACLU of Kentucky filed the lawsuit against the Louisville group as well as against the City of Louisville, which is to disburse monies to applicants selected by the group and which acted as a liaison pass-through between HUD and the local group.

“This grant program is far more extreme than President Bush’s government-funded religion scheme, sometimes called a ‘faith-based’ initiative,” said Lili Lutgens, an ACLU of Kentucky cooperating attorney assisting in the case.

The Bush plan, which was halted because of concerns about discrimination and taxpayer funding of religious activities, initially sought to create unequal rules allowing government funds to flow directly to churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship that are not required to abide by civil rights and other anti-discrimination laws.

ACLU of Kentucky cooperating attorneys in the lawsuit are Lutgens, Friedman, and John Valentine.

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