US lawsuit says federal grants to Christian marriage center are unconstitutional
From The Associated Press
TACOMA, Wa., Sept 13, 2006 (www.iht.com) - A group is suing the federal government over grant money that went to a marriage counseling center which urges wives to serve their husbands and make them happy as a way of honoring god.
The group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says the Bush administration's initiative to support faith-based organizations has been used to unconstitutionally promote a fundamentalist Christian agenda.
The Northwest Marriage Institute received $97,750 last year from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
On its Web site, the institute quotes several Bible verses, including one that urges wives to win over their husbands with a "quiet spirit." It also says wives should serve their husbands and make them happy as a way of honoring God.
"This program trains people in how to make their marriages conform to one narrow interpretation of faith," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based Americans United, which is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. "The federal government has no business forcing the taxpayer to subsidize that."
The 13 plaintiffs, residents of western Washington, want the grant money returned, with interest, and an injunction to prohibit further federal funding of the Marriage Institute.
Bob Whiddon Jr., the Marriage Institute's director, said Tuesday he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment beyond saying that his organization has followed rules for spending the grant money.
The Marriage Institute's Web site says its services are available to people of all faiths.