January 24, 2008
For Immediate Release
(Washington, D.C.) The Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a demand letter today to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Honorable Alphonso Jackson, advising Secretary Jackson not to follow Congress’ instructions to distribute funds to a sectarian religious group. The letter also declared the AHLC’s intention to sue if the letter goes unanswered and funds are allocated in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
“A recent spending bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush sets aside $595,000 for Morning Star Ranch, a Christian-only evangelist training camp,” said Mel Lipman, president of the American Humanist Association. “This is a sectarian religious camp where no Jews need apply, nor any other non-Christians, including humanists. Providing this operation taxpayer dollars is a clear and outrageous violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
According to the Morning Star Ranch website at www.worldimpact.org/ministries/camps/msr.php, the ranch belongs to World Impact, an evangelical Christian mission organization, and is primarily used for the group’s “Christian Leadership Training Program,” a two-year program for “single, urban young men, ages 18-25, who have made a commitment to Christ.” The facilities, located in Florence, Kansas, are also “available to other Christian groups.” The earmark was sponsored by Senator Sam Brownback and Representative Jerry Moran, both of Kansas.
The spending bill that contained the earmark in the House-Senate Conference Report was signed into law by President Bush on December 26, 2007.
“Religious groups aren’t barred from receiving federal funds so long as there is some guarantee that the tax monies will be used exclusively for secular purposes,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “But there is no guarantee of that in this case, and it in fact appears as though the federal funds will be used to repair buildings that will be employed exclusively by Christians for a sectarian purpose. That is why we’re writing to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to advise them of this problem and to stop the flow of funds for unconstitutional purposes.”
The letter asks that Secretary Jackson inform the AHLC by Wednesday, February 6, 2008, of any money granted to or plans to grant money to Morning Star Ranch. The letter also informs Jackson that if word has not been received by that date then the AHLC will seek redress in federal district court.
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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.