A Louisiana sheriff has received bipartisan support in his fight against the Department of Justice after they denied thousands of dollars in funding to the Young Marines because the program’s oath placed “special emphasis on the love of God and fidelity to our country.”
“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,” Sheriff Julian 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 sheriff refused to sign any document pledging not to pray and as a result the department lost its funding. The Liberty Institute is representing the sheriff’s office as they try to get back $30,000 in government funding.
Meanwhile, Gov. Bobby Jindal has issued a proclamation urging the DOJ to restore funding and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu has introduced legislation to forbid the federal government from defunding programs because of religious activity.
The DOJ originally funneled the money through the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement. The DOJ did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Young Marines describes itself as a private service program for boys and girls. Its national website says members should attend church and pledge not to dishonor God. The Justice Department took exception to that.
Liberty Institute attorney Michael Berry told Fox News that the Obama Administration’s decision is disturbing.
“We are deeply troubled that the DOJ, the agency in charge of defending the civil rights of us all, would engage in this type of discrimination by denying permission to fund the outstanding Young Marine’s program,” Berry said. “It is shameful that a mere mention of God sends the DOJ officials running as if they had seen a ghost.”
Berry sent a letter to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division calling on them to reinstate the lost funding.
“The DOJ’s denial of funds to BPSO youth programs is a violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause because it constitutes unlawful viewpoint discrimination,” he wrote.
According to documents obtained by Fox News, the DOJ took exception to the Young Marines obligation oath.
“From this day forward, I sincerely promise I will set an example for all other youth to follow, and I shall never do anything that would bring disgrace or dishonor upon my God, my Country and its flag, my parents, myself, or the Young Marines,” the oath read. “These I will honor and respect in a manner that will reflect credit upon them and myself. Semper Fidelis.”