Religious Right Defends Mich. 'Faith-Based' Ranch

A state agency in Michigan incurred the wrath of the Religious Right after it agreed to stop placing troubled youngsters in a non-profit "faith-based" program that is accused of forcing teens to participate in religious activities.

Late last year, the Michigan Family Independence Agency (MFIA) issued a moratorium on sending juveniles who have trouble with the law to Teen Ranch, after several youths complained of being forced to participate in religious activities there. In a Jan. 9 letter to Teen Ranch officials, the MFIA said seven juveniles placed in the facility had complained of being penalized for failing to "attend and participate in religious services."

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a well-heeled network of Religious Right lawyers, is threatening to challenge the MFIA's moratorium in court, the Detroit Free Press reported in late January.

According to the ADF, whose founders include far-right radio counselor James Dobson of Focus on the Family and TV preacher D. James Kennedy, the state discriminated against Teen Ranch when it suspended its relationship with the facility because of its religious perspective.

The Free Press reported that Teen Ranch offers Sunday services, youth meetings and special religious events. It also requires juveniles who are about to enter the program to sign a statement acknowledging that Teen Ranch is a Christian facility whose mission is "providing hope to young people and families through life-changing relationships and experiences from a Christian perspective."