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Bush 'faith-based initiative' wins victory, though legal challenges continue

[JURIST] President Bush's "faith-based initiative" to get taxpayer funding to religious charities won a legal victory recently when a US federal judge ruled that religious groups are able to hire and fire employees based on their religious beliefs and practices, even if their salaries are funded by taxpayers. The case had been brought by eighteen Salvation Army [organization website] employees who claim they were fired or demoted for refusing to reveal what church they attended, name gay co-employees, or pledge support to the Salvation Army's message of "proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord." H. James Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives [official website], called the decision "huge" saying, "It's certainly a vindication of what President Bush has been saying from Day One -- that religious groups do not have to sell their soul, compromise their hiring practices, in order to partner with government in providing social services."

Meanwhile, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) [advocacy website] won a victory for critics of Bush's faith program last week when the US Department of Education [official website] suspended a $435,000 grant for Alaska Christian College [FFRF press release], a school run by the Evangelical Covenant Church, because the curriculum was almost entirely religious and the grant amounted to an "unconstitutional endorsement of religion." Another related trial brought by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State [advocacy website] is set to begin in Iowa Monday, which will challenge the constitutionality of funding for the state's prison ministry InnerChange program that describes itself as "Christ-centered." Thursday's Washington Post has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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