Legislation that would prohibit the withholding of federal funds to religious programs received support from a prominent Senate Republican this week.


Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) announced Thursday that Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had signed on as a co-sponsor of her Freedom to Pray Act. The bill would prohibit the federal government from withholding or revoking funds to programs whose participants engage in religious activities.

"I am deeply encouraged by Sen. Graham's support of the Freedom to Pray Act," Landrieu said in a statement.

The Louisiana Democrat introduced the legislation after the U.S. Department of Justice pulled funding for the Bossier Sheriff's Young Marines program over its religious demeanor. The education and service program provides boys and girls "a safe place to develop and grow with special emphasis on the love of God," according to the sheriff's website.

"I will continue to work to build support on both sides of the aisle to get this important legislation passed and put an end to the Department of Justice's overreach," Landrieu added. "Programs like the Young Marines in Bossier City are making positive contributions to young individuals and their communities-they deserve our support."

The Justice Department's Office of Civil Rights informed the Bossier Sheriff's Office in June that the program would need to remove its emphasis on prayer and God if it wished to continue receiving funds. Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington refused and lost $30,000 in federal funding.

"As Sheriff of Bossier Parish, I will never sign the requested letter preventing these ‘inherently religious activities’ from being part of our program," Whittington said.

[Image via Flickr user studio08denver, Creative Commons licensed]