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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teen Challenge Gets Over 2 Million in State Funding

Andy Birkey at Minnesota Independent has the story. This is the best work I've seen Andy Birkey do.

A former crack user says she kicked her addiction because she found Jesus at Minnesota Teen Challenge. A man says that God healed his liver after a prayer service at the Christian drug treatment facility. While its clients sing its praises — some claiming it saved their lives — should such an overtly religious program be receiving taxpayer funding? According to state records, MNTC has gotten more than $2 million from the state of Minnesota in order to run its faith-based chemical dependency treatment centers.

The overtly evangelical nature of the program raises questions about the constitutionality of the large amount of state money flowing into the program. Teen Challenge has received $2,388,947 in state funding since 2007, mainly from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, according to the state’s new Transparency and Accountability Project website.

Michele Bachmann appologist, columnist Craig Westover, comments:

This article appears to be a tit for tat counter to all the bad press ACORN is getting, rather than a effort to look at the issue of separation of Church and State. So be it, but let’s look at the larger issue.

Do we really have a separation fo Church and State when the state has the authority to determine how a rehabilitation center accomplishes its goal? That is not a separation, it is the state deciding what constitutes religion and what doesn’t. The state’s interest in this is whether or not the program is meeting rehabilitation objectives. Period.

Unless Teen Challenge is forcing people into their program against their will, seems to me that we ought to be more concerned about their results than whether or not their method is based on religion. Same for TIZA — if they provide kids with the education they need to be productive citizens, should it matter if they are also trying to preserve Islamic tradition along with American instilling values in their students? And in either case should it be the state that decides the matter?

Personally, I’d rather the money went to patients and students and in turn they decided where it would be spent, but short of that, it seems like at both ends of the political spectrum we have a lot of vindictive people out to make political points who really don’t give a damn about whether people’s lives are made better or not.

Birkey responds:

Craig Westover: “This article appears to be a tit for tat counter to all the bad press ACORN is getting, rather than a effort to look at the issue of separation of Church and State. So be it, but let’s look at the larger issue.”

In what possible way did you get to that conclusion? I’ve been writing about separation of church and state since I began writing 6 years ago. The program calls itself a ministry and receives state funding. The government cannot support the promotion of religion, and the leaders of Teen Challenge aren’t shy about promoting their program as a discipleship.

And as with the case of TIZA, if religious instruction is the goal or even a large component, why not ask parishioners, congregations and denominations to chip in and support it? Or ask God for the money? Why ask taxpayers to pay for other people’s religious conversion? Or their study of their personal, private faith?

And the state does have the authority. They are paying the bills and by extension, so are we. So it should matter. Teen Challenge is state funded but is not open to all people, except for those that accept Jesus Christ as their religious leader.

Other commenters suggest the success rate isn't what it's cooked up to be:

Rob Levine
Comment posted September 22, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

Teen Challenge is a favored recipient of Conservative Philanthropy money. About those “studies” that showed TC success: They only counted people who *finished* the program – not those who dropped out along the way. Sophistry.

Stunning Steve
Comment posted September 22, 2009 @ 6:19 pm

MN Teen Challenge does NOT have the highest success rate of any treatment center. They manipulate their data, and lie about it. In fact, their “success rate” is quite poor, and I think state investigator Jim Nobles ought to look into this, and the bookkeeping practices at Teen Challenge, since they’re receiving so many taxpayer dollars.