The Department of Justice gives out grants to groups to help fight human trafficking. That's good!
But this year, the DOJ decided to ignore the expected recipients, who both received high marks from grant application reviewers, and gave around $500,000 each to the Lincoln Tubman Foundation, a new organization founded by the daughter of a prominent Trump-supporting South Carolina Republican, and the Nevada-based Hookers for Jesus.
Here's what Reuters, who broke the story, had to say about Hookers for Jesus:
Hookers for Jesus, which received $530,190 over three years, is run by a born-again Christian trafficking survivor who has lobbied against decriminalizing prostitution, a policy position aligning with many in the Republican Party.
Hookers for Jesus operates a safe house for female adult trafficking victims that, in 2010 and in 2018, maintained a policy of requiring guests to participate in religious activities, internal program manuals obtained by Reuters through public records requests show.
The safe house’s manuals had rules that included a ban on reading “secular magazines with articles, pictures, etc. that portray worldly views/advice on living, sex, clothing, makeup tips.” Other rules limited everything from who victims could call to banning them from bringing their purses with them on weekly shopping trips. Rule-breakers could be penalized by being assigned chores such as washing windows.
There are major issues here. First, that the policies around this particular grant forbid the government from funding any activity that is explicitly religious — that whole separation-of-church-and-state thing. Second, that the organizations that have received the grant in the past, and expected to receive it once again, were both involved in activities that were decidedly opposed to the Trump agenda. Chicanos Por La Causa has publicly disagreed with the administration's immigration policies, while the head of the Catholic Charities in Palm Beach has a history of involvement with the Democratic National Committee. According to the documents reviewed by Reuters, these two organizations once again submitted top applications, according to the grant review committee. So while perhaps one might argue that the DOJ just happened to decide to give someone else a shot at fighting human trafficking this year, the evidence suggests there was something else going on.
A whistleblower noted that something unethical was going on, and alerted the press. Let's just hope that whistleblower doesn't lose their job in this era of legalized hyper-partisan Christian cronyism.
Exclusive: Justice Department anti-human trafficking grants prompt whistleblower complaint [Sarah N. Lynch / Reuters]
Image: Cory Doctorow / Flickr (CC 2.0)