The Proteus collaborative gave $400,000 to four New Mexico groups. Grants of $100,000 each went to the ACLU of New Mexico; the Center for Civic Policy; the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; and Young Women United, a policy change, social change, and community organizing project "by and for women and people of color" in the state.
Their grants, as listed on the Proteus website, aim to support a state coalition to build "a cross-sector, place-based movement with faith leaders, immigrants, LGBTQ youth and communities of color that challenges the discriminatory effects of religious refusals in New Mexico through public education, research, documentation, faith leader mobilization and place-based and intersectional organization and training."
The Center for Civic Policy grant included support for the work of the New Mexico Dream Team, a group whose website described itself as "a statewide network committed to create power for multigenerational, undocumented, LGBTQ+, and mixed status families towards liberation." The group engages in leadership training and development, community engagement, organizing and advocacy for "policy change fighting to dismantle systematic oppression."
For Florida, the Proteus Fund made a $5,000 grant in 2017 to the Equality Florida Institute to work with Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida and also Proyecto Somos Orlando, a support group for those affected by the 2016 Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting, to develop proposals for the Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative.
Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, was critical of the Proteus Fund collaborative's advocacy of these causes as a way to advance the separation of church and state.
"Groups that aim to promote separation of church and state seem to be taking advantage of and are perpetuating a misperception of the proper role of religion in civil society," Sheedy told CNA. "Religious persons have long been engaged in the public square, and religious entities have been a tremendous impetus for good in our society. Faith calls us to our better selves to serve those in need. We need more people engaged in promoting the common good – not fewer."
There are various religious freedom concerns in Florida, he said. Adoption agency conscience protections were debated and failed to pass in the legislature, though unlike some other states there are no requirements for an agency to violate its faith in making a child placement.
Many Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to close because they cannot place children with same-sex couples, and so violated new regulations governing agency licensing or funding rules.
Florida law has conscience protections regarding participation in executions and regarding some end-of-life issues, Sheedy said. There are also protections related to abortion and family planning, though bills have been filed to limit this.
He did say there are some conflicts beginning to emerge between "Christian anthropology" and various LGBT issues.
Lobbying in Florida, said Sheedy, primarily focuses on local-level "conversion therapy bans" and state and local level advocacy for "housing and employment policies that relate to typically ill-defined concepts of 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity'."
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Saenz seemed optimistic that the efforts to restrict religious freedom will fail.
"With such important elections on the line, and recent victories for religious freedoms on the court many of the organizations that have been getting away for many years with suppressing religious freedom now know their days could be numbered," Saenz added, citing the decision in the U.S. Supreme Court's Masterpiece Cakeshop case, in a which a Colorado bakery owner successfully fought an anti-discrimination complaint for declining to make a cake celebrating a same-sex union due to his Christian beliefs.
"If we stand united we can win, particularly in Texas," he said.
The Proteus Fund collaborative said the change it envisions requires "a shift in the way that the public and policymakers understand religious liberty and the delicate but critical balance between it and many other equally important rights that protect against discrimination."
State-based advocates need "significant additional resources" to test and implement "new public education, advocacy, organizing, and messaging strategies" and to build "organizational and collaborative capacity" while sharing knowledge across different states and issues.
The collaborative's funding partners, listed on the Proteus Fund website, included the Alki Fund of the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Arcus Foundation, the Gill Foundation, the Groundswell Fund, the Irving Harris Foundation, the Moriah Fund, the Overbrook Foundation, and anonymous donors, as CNA reported in 2017.