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Americans United, allies oppose `faith-based' funding in Wisconsin case. (People & Events).

Americans United and two national Jewish groups are asking a federal appeals court to strike down a Wisconsin program that funds a "faith-based" substance abuse and employment training program.

The controversy centers on Faith Works Milwaukee, a group that helps men overcome addictions and find jobs. In its bylaws, the organization says its offers "a holistic, faith-based approach to bring healing to mind, body, heart and soul."

The organization has received $600,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and $110,000 from the state Department of Corrections. In 2001, the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sued, asserting that the grants violate the separation of church and state.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb last year struck down the Workforce Department's grant to Faith Works, holding that it is direct government funding of religious activity. However, Crabb upheld the grant to the Department of Corrections, saying that men on probation could choose Faith Works among other agencies, not all of which were religious. Crabb said that made the program similar to a voucher system, which the high court upheld in June.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation appealed the second part of the ruling, insisting that the Department of Corrections grant is also unconstitutional. In a friend-of-the-court brief, Americans United, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League agreed.

The brief, written by AU Litigation Counsel Alex Luchenitser, asserts that Faith Works is the only viable choice for men on probation. It notes that only Faith Works offers a nine-to-12 month program, and that it is the only agency that offers employment counseling. Corrections officials, the brief contends, strongly urge probationers to enroll in Faith Works.

The case, Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Thompson, is currently on appeal to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U3WI
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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