ACLU Seeks To Keep Roman Catholic Church From Helping Victims Of Human Trafficking
The US government is allowing a Catholic organization to limit a program for human-trafficking victims to groups that do not provide access to abortion or birth control, the American Civil Liberties Union charged yesterday in a lawsuit filed in Boston.
The US Department of Health and Human Services hired the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2006 to help immigrants who had been forced into prostitution or slave labor. The bishops have disseminated millions of dollars in federal funding the past two years to an array of nonprofits, including the International Institute of Boston, that directly assist victims.
“We think this is a blatant violation of the separation of church and state,” said Brigitte Amiri, the lead ACLU attorney in the lawsuit against Health and Human Services. “The federal government never should have allowed this in the first place.”
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the Catholic bishops in Washington, acknowledged the restrictions, saying they are in keeping with the church’s religious and moral beliefs. She said they won the federal contract because they offer an extensive network of services for victims, including access to healthcare, housing, and job training. The bishops have received about $6 million in federal funding to aid more than 600 victims nationwide.
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