Washington, DCThe Interfaith Alliance called on Congress to take a more aggressive oversight role concerning the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives based on an ABC News story of cronyism and taxpayer-funded proselytizing.

According to the June 24 story, the Justice Department awarded a $1.2 million grant jointly to an evangelical youth charity called Victory Outreach and a consulting firm run by a former Faith-Based Office staffer. Several career DOJ employees objected to the grant because one-third of the money will line the coffers of the consulting firm and not be used to help children. The DOJ employees also noted that Victory Outreach had mismanaged a prior grant made by the state of Ohio.

This incident of cronyism removes all doubts that the real mission of the faith-based initiative is to aid the Religious Right,” said Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance. “Congress needs to exercise greater oversight on this program so that we can avoid scandals like this in the future.”

Accusations of manipulation in the Faith-Based Office first surfaced in 2006 when former White House staffer David Kuo wrote a tell-all book. In it, he documented how federal funds were funneled to fly-by-night evangelical Christian charities without any congressional approval.

The Interfaith Alliance is also concerned about how Victory Outreach would have used its grant. On its website, Victory Outreach describes itself as a “church-oriented Christian ministry called to the task of evangelizing and disciplining the hurting people of the world, with the message of hope and plan of Jesus Christ.”

“The Constitution makes it clear that taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund sectarian proselytizing,” said Rev. Gaddy. “Children who need social services should not be forced to submit to a religious agenda as a condition of receiving help.”

Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.