Americorps Program Shouldn’t Promote Religion, AU Argues

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has urged a federal appeals court to rule against a publicly funded AmeriCorps program that allows teachers to offer religious instruction at sectarian schools.

The AmeriCorps program provides stipends called “national service education awards” to individuals for work at certain locations around the country, including religious schools. A U.S. district court ruled July 2 in American Jewish Congress v. Corporation for National and Community Service that the arrangement violates the First Amendment. The federal government appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief Nov. 22, opposing the religious subsidies in the AmeriCorps program.

“Here, religious institutions actually use AmeriCorps participants and grant funds for religious instruction and activities,” reads AU’s brief. “The government has failed to create an effective system for monitoring how the aid is used. The aid consists of religious instructors who have received religious training for faith-based institutions. And the instructors perform core teaching functions at parochial school.”