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Landrieu Says DOJ Overreaching in Bossier, Introduces Freedom to Pray Act

July 11, 2013

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today introduced the Freedom to Pray Act, which will prohibit the federal government from withholding or revoking funds to programs whose participants engage in voluntary religious activities. Sen. Landrieu has been working on this issue since June 2012 after she learned from a constituent e-mail that the Young Marines Program in Bossier City might lose federal funds from the Department of Justice (DOJ) because of voluntary prayer and the mention of God in the program. Since then, Sen. Landrieu and her staff have been in frequent contact with local officials and senior DOJ leadership to try and resolve this problem, so that the program can continue to receive federal funding and serve the community.

The Freedom to Pray Act would allow the Young Marines Program in Bossier City - and other programs in similar situations - to conduct voluntary religious activities without fear of losing their federal funding.

"This is clearly a serious overreach by the Department of Justice and I intend to do something about it. These kids are working to improve themselves and their communities; they deserve support, not unnecessary hurdles. To fix this problem, the Freedom to Pray Act will prohibit the federal government from withholding funds simply because participants are voluntarily praying. It's legal, it's constitutional and it should not be singled out by the Justice Department," Sen. Landrieu said. "The DOJ has plenty of problems to worry about - it should focus more on them and not a program that is doing good work for kids in our community."

In June 2013, as part of a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the DOJ budget, Sen. Landrieu requested a written response from the Justice Department as to why the program was singled out. Sen. Landrieu asked:

  • Does voluntary prayer or a moment of silence during a youth program render the program ineligible for funding? Please describe the Department's process for determining what constitutes an inherently religious activity.
  • What steps are taken to ensure that communication between the Department and the state agencies truly reflect the Department's regulations and do not result in overly burdensome scrutiny?

The Young Marines Program in Bossier has been working in the community since December 2002 and has served approximately 1,000 participants. Recruits learn military history, close order drills and physical fitness, among other important life skills. The program promotes teambuilding and a sense of community among the recruits, and provides caring adult mentors who are committed to providing them with a safe place to develop and grow with special emphasis on the love of God and fidelity to our country.


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