First Amendment Violation: A new scandal is brewing for the Trump administration after a recent report reveals that the Department of Justice (DOJ) gave over $500,000 in anti-human trafficking grant money to “Hookers For Jesus,” a proselytizing Christian ministry.
A U.S. Justice Department anti-human trafficking grant program is facing internal complaints, after two nonprofits were denied funding in favor of two less established groups whose applications were not recommended by career DOJ officials.
The awarding of more than $1 million total to the two groups, Hookers for Jesus in Nevada and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation in South Carolina, has triggered a whistleblower complaint filed by the Justice Department’s employee union to the department’s Inspector General.
According to the report,” Hookers for Jesus,” a Christian ministry founded by former sex worker and sex trafficking victim Annie Lobert, received $530,190 in government funding. The ministry “operates Destiny House, a one-year safehouse program for sex-trafficking victims and women who want to leave sex work, as well as a number of other outreach programs.”
Newsweek reports on the problematic group:
[Hookers for Jesus] is controversial due to its strict rules in the safehouse, banning “secular magazines with articles, pictures, etc. that portray worldly views/advice on living, sex, clothing, makeup tips,” and mandatory attendance of the organization’s religious services.
Its staff manual also says homosexuality is immoral, according to copies obtained by Reuters via a public records request. The group’s policies could violate federal anti-discrimination laws.
Even more alarming, internal program manuals obtained by Reuters through public records requests show that the supposed safehouse “maintained a policy of requiring guests to participate in religious activities.”
The Reuters report goes on to note:
Other rules limited everything from who victims could call to banning them from bringing their purses with them on weekly shopping trips. Rule-breakers could be penalized by being assigned chores such as washing windows.
In other words, the Christian ministry takes advantage of vulnerable female adult trafficking victims, forcing them to participate in religious activities, prohibiting them from reading “secular magazines,” and controlling their every move.
Lawyers find that the ministry is violating “anti-discrimination laws that prohibit using federal funding to engage in explicitly religious activities.”
Dallas Hammer, an attorney specializing in discrimination law, said:
The fact that the federal government is funding this is problematic. The decision-makers here could be walking the federal government right into a clear violation of the First Amendment.
Bottom line: In a clear violation of the First Amendment, the DOJ gave over $500,000 in anti-human trafficking grant money to “Hookers For Jesus,” a proselytizing Christian ministry.