Arizona Prison Program Aids Religion, Says Court

Federal grants to a prison-mentoring program run by an evangelical group are unconstitutional, a federal court has ruled.

On Jan. 12, U.S. District Judge John C. Shabaz found that grants made by the Department of Health and Human Services to the Arizona-based Mentoring Children of Prisoners violated church-state separation.

Shabaz noted, in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Jim Towey, that the Arizona-based group’s literature clearly revealed its intentions to proselytize children. The articles of incorporation for MentorKids USA state that among its purposes is, “To exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Savior of the World and the head of his church.”

Moreover, Shabaz cited a 2003 memo from the group’s president to case managers that in the next year “we plan to be much more intentional about introducing the kids in the program to Christ and nurturing their growth and foundation in Him.”

The lawsuit challenging the federal grants was brought by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.