ACLU targets U.S. bishops over aid to victims of trafficking


The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that a contract it granted to the U.S. Catholic bishops to help victims of human trafficking allows the bishops to force their beliefs on those they serve.

The allegations leveled by the ACLU are related to grants made by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to the U.S. Bishops’ Conference (USCCB) to care for people—mainly women and children—who have been victimized by human traffickers.

The ACLU’s Director of Litigation, Daniel Mach, argues that the Bush Administration allowed the USCCB to "to impose its religious beliefs on trafficking victims by prohibiting sub grantees from ensuring access to services like emergency contraception, condoms, and abortion care."

As part of their agreement with the DHHS to help trafficking victims, the USCCB stipulated that they would not work with subcontractors who provide abortion services or contraceptives, since both are contrary to Catholic teaching.

The Catholic Church teaches that contraception is immoral because it purposely denies the gift of life and does not involve the total gift of self that should take place between husband and wife, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The ACLU claims that the bishops’ conference was awarded $6 million to assist the victims, but Sr. Mary Ann Walsh told Reuters that although that amount was authorized, "far less" money had been appropriated.

"The problem of trafficking in this country is huge and serious and the Catholic Church has the best network of services bar none," she said. "Going to the Catholic Church for social services is very logical."

CNA contacted the USCCB for comment but did not receive a response before press time.

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