Crisis Pregnancy Center That Makes Expectant Parents “Earn” Baby Supplies Through Bible Study Seeks Federal Loans for Expansion
This article is published in partnership with The American Independent.
Should taxpayer funds be used to help a “Christ-centered ministry” buy and renovate a building in which it will offer Bible instruction and other services aimed at preventing abortion?
That’s the question at the center of a lawsuit filed by Care Net Pregnancy Center of Windham County, Vermont, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rejected the center’s application for a federal building loan.
Care Net is a self-described “pregnancy resource center” that works to prevent abortion by offering an array of services, including free pregnancy tests, parenting classes, and counseling. The USDA denied the group’s loan request due to the “inherently religious” nature of some of its programming.
Care Net’s most troubling offering, as far as USDA officials were concerned, was a rewards-based learning program called “Learn to Earn,” wherein expectant parents had to take a certain number of parenting and Bible study classes in order to receive free baby supplies. (Care Net’s executive director has said the center has since suspended the Bible study requirement.) The center also offers, according to a brochure, a “bible centered program” called “Post Abortive Teaching and Healing” that “enables women to process their abortion-related experiences and emotions with the goal of healing and recovery.” In addition, Care Net conducts an abstinence-only sex-education class called “Why Am I Tempted?” or WAIT.
Backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom — an influential Christian conservative legal group — and a New Hampshire law firm, Care Net is arguing that the USDA’s actions violated the Fair Housing Act and its constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection under the law. In October, a federal judge ordered a USDA hearing officer to consider these arguments in deciding whether Care Net should get the loan.
Care Net’s attorneys hope the case will have a broader impact and will help lead to more religious groups being able to access government funding.
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