The US Conference of Catholic Bishops struck out again last week when a “federal judge ruled against the bishops in a fight over whether the group could impose its views on contraception and abortion through its control of taxpayer dollars.”
According to the Mother Jones article linked above, the Bush Administration contracted with the bishops to provide services to victims of human trafficking.
The bishops had been administering virtually all the federal money allocated for such services, about $3 million a year, doling it out to subcontractors who served victims all over the country. The USCCB had prohibited the contractors from using the federal funds to pay for staff time to counsel victims on contraception or abortion, or to refer them for such services.
In 2009 the ACLU sued HHS, arguing that such restrictions on the use of taxpayers’ money violates separation of church and state. The suit was still working its way through the courts last fall when the Obama Administration chose not to renew the contract, mostly because the Bishops refused to provide some of the services the victims actually needed.
The decision set off a firestorm in Congress, where House Republicans accused the administration of bid-rigging and violating the bishops’ religious freedom during a marathon oversight hearing in December.
Right, because the Constitution gives churches the right to use taxpayers’ money to further their own sectarian interests … oh, wait …
Anyway, the federal judge said,
To insist that the government respect the separation of church and state is not to discriminate against religion; indeed, it promotes a respect for religion by refusing to single out any creed for official favor at the expense of all others….This case is about the limits of the government’s ability to delegate to a religious institution the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them).
Yes. Thank you. And excuse me for the snark, but contracting with the Bishops to provide services for victims of human trafficking seems a bit like contracting with the Daughters of the Confederacy to run racial sensitivity programs.