By Sandhya Bathija
Yesterday, my colleague Rob Boston reminded us that the Religious Right’s influence is alive and well.
He discussed a new South Dakota law that requires women to seek counseling before opting to have an abortion. In many states, this counseling is troubling because not only does it promote heavily fundamentalist Christian viewpoints, it is also funded by the taxpayer.
Today, the American Independent reports that in Indiana Religious Right groups are receiving ample government support to push their agenda in the anti-gay realm as well.
The online newspaper reports that these organizations are receiving federal funds to run so-called “healthy marriage programs” all the while leading political movements to ban same-sex marriage and other LGBT equality measures.
For example, the Indiana Family Institute (IFI), a state affiliate of Colorado-based Focus on the Family, has been the strongest force behind the state’s anti-same sex marriage amendment, HJR 6, which passed the Indiana Senate this week.
At the same time, the IFI has also received a $50,000 grant from a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2005 and has been endorsed by the state as a “collaborative partner” to administer a federally funded Healthy Marriage program, receiving federal support through the Indiana Department of Child Services through 2013.
According to the Independent’s report, the IFI is a 501(c) (3) that also has a political action committee called Indiana Family Action. Both entities share office space and employees, making it all the more troubling since funding of the 501(c)(3) operation could easily be benefiting the activities of the PAC.
The IFI has been intimately connected to passing the anti-marriage amendment from the start. HJR 6 was announced at an IFI event by the measure’s co-sponsors, and it was pushed in the Senate by Dennis Kruse, who is listed as an adviser for the IFI, according to the Independent.
In the past, the IFI has also opposed legislation that would protect LGBT persons from assaults, claiming it was “the brain-child of activists hoping to promote homosexuality, bisexuality and gender identity disorder.”
But the IFI is not the only Religious Right group receiving public funds to achieve its goals.
In South Carolina, the Palmetto Family Council was awarded $1.2 million to run a marriage program, while the self-declared “top priority” for the group in 2006 was South Carolina’s anti-gay marriage amendment.
Another major political player and anti-gay group, the Iowa Family Policy Center (IFPC), also received more than $3 million in federal funds to pay for a marriage-mentoring program.
A further investigation would likely prove that the problem is rampant throughout the country, and it’s definitely disturbing.
While these groups have every right to advocate for the politics they like, they don’t have a right to disguise themselves as social services organizations and win public funds to implement those politics. The Religious Right’s controversial social agenda should be funded by the people who support it, not the American taxpayer.