A Louisiana lawman is livid over the federal government’s decision to cut off funds for two programs to help troubled young people -- all, he says, because he refused to sign a pledge to bar prayer or any mention of God at their meetings.
Julian Whittington, the sheriff of Bossier Parish, Louisiana, told Fox News that the Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights de-funded $30,000 for their Young Marines chapter as well as a youth diversion program. Federal officials objected to a voluntary student-led prayer in the department’s youth diversion program and an oath recited by the Young Marines that mentions God, according to Whittington, who blasted what he considers the government’s “aggression and infringement of our religious freedoms.”
“We were informed that these are unacceptable inherently religious activities and the Department of Justice would not be able to fund the programs if it continued,” Whittington told Fox News. “They wanted a letter from me stating that I would no longer have voluntary prayer and I would also have to remove 'God' from the Young Marine’s oath.”
The DOJ and the Office of Civil Rights are aware of the controversy but did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Fox News obtained an email written by an attorney for the DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights raised questions about references to God and church along with the phrase “love of God.” The attorney also raised questions about one of the five elements of the Young Marines Creed – “Keep myself clean in mind by attending the church of my faith.”
The attorney advised that DOJ rules prohibit “funding on inherently religious activities, such as prayer, religious instruction and proselytization.
“And any religious activities must be kept separate in time or location from DOJ-funded activities,” the attorney wrote.
The sheriff was told he would not be given any money unless he wrote a letter pledging not to pray or use the word “God.”
“I flat said, ‘It’s not going to happen,’” he said. “Enough is enough. This is the United States of America -- and the idea that the mere mention of God or voluntary prayer is prohibited is ridiculous.”
The sheriff said the programs have been in place for at least ten years and until now -- the prayers and the mention of God have never been an issue.
The Young Marine’s oath that the DOJ took issue with states: