Via Amanda Crane at Bossier Press Tribune:
The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office has been denied federal funding for its mention of God and use of religion in the Young Marines and Youth Diversion programs.
Sheriff Julian Whittington received notice that funding would be restored only if he signed a letter “pledging that no prayer or mention of God would be allowed” in the programs. However, Whittington said he is appalled by the government’s decision and refused to sign the letter, forgoing the $15,000 grant award.
Be sure to read the whole story.
Sheriff Whittington is standing his ground and says the program will continue with or without the government's support.
This issue came about, in part, because the Young Marines Program has been such a success in reforming troubled kids. Because the program was so successful, local judges began ordering troubled kids to the Young Marines Program rather than sending them to jail. Because the YM was never intended as a "diversion program," the Louisiana Law Enforcement Commission, who partially funds the program through a grant, suggested that the Sheriff's office establish a new diversion program for court-ordered juveniles.
In December 2012, the Sheriff's office submitted their grant proposal for the Young Marines funding and in response was told that the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, would not fund the program as long as God or prayer was allowed, even if that prayer was voluntary.
When asked to provide a letter saying no mention of God or voluntary prayer would be allowed, Sheriff Whittington refused and withdrew his grant request.
Then, in February 2013, the Sheriff, submitted a request for funding for his Juvenile Justice Delinquency Program and was refused on the same grounds.
So, now the Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office has been refused funding for two programs aimed at helping troubled kids just because Sheriff Whittington is standing up for core values, religious freedom, and voluntary prayer.
Shame on the DOJ.
You can read more about the Young Marines program here.
La. State Senator Barrow Peacock proposed a resolution (PDF) asking the Louisiana delegation in Washington for review of this decision, which passed with unanimous approval:
Peacock on Wednesday got unanimous Senate approval of Senate Resolution 192 asking the Washington, D.C. delegation to review the basis for denying funds for the Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office Young Marines Program.
"This program has had prayer that has been led by teens who are in this program, and when it hasn't been led, they had a moment of silence," Peacock said. "But now they are being told by our federal government, by the Department of Justice, that there can be no prayer activity or they will not fund this program."
Sheriff Whittington sees further implications beyond just the Bossier Young Marines:
The Young Marines Obligation states, “From this day forward, I sincerely promise, I will set an example for all other youth to follow and I shall never do anything that would bring disgrace or dishonor upon God, my Country and its flag, my parents, myself or the Young Marines. These I will honor and respect in a manner that will reflect credit upon them and myself. Semper Fidelis."
When it comes down to it, though, Whittington said this isn’t a situation that effects just Bossier Parish youth.
“This is an American issue,” he said. “How do they think they can do this? Now you’re telling me that we can’t have voluntary prayer or even mention the word God?”
Sheriff Whittington's concerns about the "bigger picture" can be seen in U.S. Representative John Fleming's report that attacks against Christianity have been occurring at an alarming rate in the U.S. military to the degree that he has offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would guarantee service members the right to practice and express their religious beliefs freely without fear of reprimand.
There has been a little local noise to chip in and help fund Whittington's youth programs but the bigger picture, it seems to me, is a government that is too big. The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ has no business in a state run program for troubled kids. They want to put grant money on the table but you have to forsake God to take it.
Kudos and support to Sheriff Whittington of Bossier Parish who vows to find the funds within his own department, and without the feds, to keep the programs going.
(Photo credit: The Shreveport Times)
Update: Thanks to The Dead Pelican for the link!