Community Group Stripped Of Funding

Alright folks, let’s dive into a story that’s making waves out of Oregon. We’ve got a Christian youth ministry, 71Five Ministries, that’s finding itself in a bit of a pickle.

They’re facing a financial crisis, and it’s all because of a decision made by a state agency that’s causing some serious heartburn for everyone involved.

71Five Ministries has been serving at-risk youth across different backgrounds and beliefs. They’re doing incredible work with kids who need it the most, including those in juvenile detention and young parents.

But recently, the Oregon Department of Education decided to yank their funding. Why? Because the ministry sticks to hiring people who align with its religious beliefs, according to a lawsuit brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

This isn’t just a small change for 71Five Ministries. We’re talking about losing over $400,000 in grants that they’d been receiving for six straight years. Now, that’s a huge blow! Bud Amundsen, the executive director, shared his frustration, saying it felt like a punch in the gut. He emphasized how they were one of the state’s favored programs until this sudden turn of events.

Amundsen is now facing a daunting financial gap. He’s worried about having to reduce staff, which would directly impact the services they provide to local youth. He’s been dipping into their reserves – $187,000 already – just to keep things running. The ministry’s staff and the kids they serve are on the brink of losing essential support.

So, what’s the legal angle here? The ADF is arguing that as a religious organization, 71Five Ministries has the right to hire people who share their faith. They’re leaning on Supreme Court rulings that say the government can’t interfere with how religious groups choose their staff.

Jeremiah Galus, senior counsel at ADF, pointed out that the Supreme Court has repeatedly told state officials not to exclude religious organizations from public programs simply because they’re religious. Yet, here we are again, with officials in Oregon trying to push those boundaries.

Galus made a strong case, highlighting that this isn’t just about 71Five’s constitutional rights, but about the youth in Southern Oregon who depend on their services. It’s a double whammy – hurting the ministry and the kids they’re trying to help.

Amundsen’s goal is to avoid cutting staff and to continue supporting as many young people as possible. He expressed a range of emotions, from frustration to feeling unappreciated for all the hard work his team has put in. The ministry’s mission is clear, but without the necessary funding, they’re in a tough spot.

The case is awaiting a judge’s decision. The hope is that 71Five Ministries can continue its partnership with the state and no other religious organizations will face similar hurdles. It’s a tense situation, but one thing’s clear – the fight for religious freedom and support for at-risk youth is far from over.