The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), one of the top ten volags (voluntary agencies) that receive grants to resettle refugees and to care for victims of human trafficking. The gist of the lawsuit involves the USCCB not providing contraceptive and abortion services to the women in their care.
However, also of interest to me is that the ACLU is saying that the USCCB is wasting tax dollars. I’m happy to see another organization that is looking out for the taxpayer.
From Catholic News Service:
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over human trafficking grants allocated to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The federal agency is violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment “by permitting USCCB to impose a religiously based restriction on the use of taxpayer funds,” the lawsuit charges. It cited the fact that the USCCB requires its subcontractors providing the direct services to trafficking victims to not use the funds for contraceptives or abortion or contraception referrals.
The suit, ACLU of Massachusetts v. Leavitt, was filed Jan. 12 in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, based in Boston. It asks for a permanent injunction requiring HHS to ensure that funds under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act are disbursed “without the imposition of religiously based restrictions.”
“We are asking the court to stop this misuse of taxpayer dollars and to protect the health and safety of trafficking victims,” said Sarah Wunsch, staff attorney with ACLU of Massachusetts, in a statement. “Trafficking victims need comprehensive and compassionate care to gain their freedom and lead safe and healthy lives.”
The trafficking grants are administered through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the Administration for Children and Families in HHS.
According to the USCCB Web site, the bishops’ conference, through its Migration and Refugee Services, “administers the Anti-Trafficking Per Capita Services Program through a contract” with the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement “to provide services to survivors of human trafficking across the country.”
We have been pointing out all along that these volags, these federal contractors, have created a staffing and office infrastructure that drains funds away from the refugee program and in this case the program for helping victims of human trafficking. My personal view is that we need to get the churches out of the taxpayer’s pockets.
Unfortunately, if the ACLU is successful, it likely won’t mean any savings on the part of the taxpayer, the funds will just be made available to another unaccountable volag—-a secular one.
The ACLU said the USCCB received $2.5 million under the HHS contract between April 2006 and April 2007 and another $3.5 million between April 2007 and April 2008. In fiscal year 2006, the “USCCB retained $900,192, or almost 40 percent of the congressionally appropriated funds, for administering the grant, while only $1.6 million … was spent serving individuals who were trafficked.”
It’s a shame that a lawsuit like this one is where we see financial figures that should be available to the general public at all times.
Endnote: I have never been able to figure out the full amount of federal funds the USCCB receives from the federal treasury but I am sure it exceeds 100 million a year for all of its federal contracts.