Group Speaks Out Against County's Religious Grants

A group has spoken out against a Delaware county's grants to religious organizations for religious purposes.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization which advocates for the separation of Church and State, wrote a letter in February to the Sussex County Council after the council granted $10,000 to the Delmarva Teen Challenge, a ministry which the FFRF says treats drug addicts by converting them to Christianity, according to the FFRF website.

The group asked the council to stop funding religious organizations, but as of July, the council has continued to give grants to other Christian groups, says The Friendly Atheist. The county awarded grants to programs like Grace-N-Mercy Ministries, a Christian church, for expenses associated with running a summer youth camp, which Grace-N-Mercy says will be run "with the faith-based principles of a vacation bible school."

After Sussex County voted to fund Grace-N-Mercy, as well as Nanticoke Young Life, another summer bible camp, the FFRF has issued a statement urging the council to stop funding religious organizations for the second time in 2016.

"The Supreme Court has consistently held that direct grants to religious institutions require appropriate safeguards against the money ever being used for religious purposes," wrote Ryan Jayne, a legal fellow for the FFRF, in a letter to J. Everett Moore Jr., a Sussex County attorney who serves the council. "The county violates both the Delaware and U.S. Constitutions when it uses public money to maintain a ministry or to fund religious activities."

Chip Guy, a spokesman for Sussex County, said that the group's letter is "under legal review," and that the county has not yet responded to it, according to Delaware Online.

Sussex's council has faced religious controversy before. In 2012, another secular activist group challenged the council for reciting The Lord's Prayer at each meeting. After a federal judge sided with the activists, the two groups came to a compromise, in which the council agreed to recite the less explicitly religious 23rd Psalm instead.

"Your input has been duly noted," wrote Moore in his response to Jayne in May, a month before the council approved the grants for the two summer camps. "The county will also consider your input during the county's review of similar entities' grant requests in the future."

Sources: FFRF, Friendly Atheist, Delaware Online / Photo credit: George Bannister/Flickr

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