Youth ministry seeks court protection from discrimination over its faith requirements

By WND Staff


A youth ministry operating in Oregon has filed a notice of appeal with the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals asking the judges to reverse a plan that discriminates based on the organization’s religious faith.

Officials with the ADF are representing Youth 71Five Ministries, which works to serve at-risk youth.

The organization was approved earlier for state funding, but it abruptly was stripped away because the organization asks employees and volunteers to sign a statement of faith.

The lawsuit over the fight was filed a few months ago, and a lower court declined to give it a responsive hearing.

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“71Five provides vital support and care to anyone who needs it, but Oregon state officials are punishing it because it’s a Christian ministry that simply and reasonably asks volunteers and staff to agree to Christian beliefs,” explained lawyer Jeremiah Galus. “By stripping 71Five of its funding, Oregon is putting religious ministries to an impossible choice: hire those who reject your beliefs to receive funding that everyone else can access or go without the funding. We will be urging the 9th Circuit to follow U.S. Supreme Court precedent that upholds the First Amendment freedom of faith-based organizations to hire like-minded individuals.”

The organization reported from 2017 to 2023, 71Five Ministries applied for—and was granted—funds from Oregon’s biennial Youth Community Investment Grants program.

When it applied for the next cycle, the ministry was first approved and then denied funding due to a new rule that requires that applicants “do not discriminate” based on religion “in [their] employment practices”

The scheme is one of the ways that leftists in power, including those in the Joe Biden administration, have used to attack Christian organizations.

The strategy is simple, and involves forcing Christian organizations, in order to participate fully in their communities, to hire LGBT individuals and thus give the minority special interest group a greater influence.

A lower court had dismissed the case by the organization that serves at-risk youth.

“71Five Ministries welcomes everyone to participate in its programs, and it serves young people in Oregon of all faiths and backgrounds, including at-risk youth, young people in detention centers and correctional facilities, and expectant and parenting teens. The ministry’s mission statement says it ‘exists to share God’s Story of Hope with young people through trusting relationships in any relevant way.’ It achieves its goal through employees and volunteers who share its mission and beliefs, as outlined by its statement of faith,” the ADF reported.

The report noted that the state continues to fund other programs with blatantly discriminatory requirements, including one that serves girls but not boys.

“In 2021, 71Five had the top-rated application for the Youth Violence and Gang Prevention grant. After applying for several grants during the 2023-2025 grant cycle, the state first accepted the applications, and 71Five was set to receive more than $400,000 in grant funding. But three months later, an Oregon state official contacted the ministry’s executive director and informed him the ministry had been disqualified because of the statement of faith that employees and volunteers sign,” the ADF reported.

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