U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu recently introduced the Freedom to Pray Act, which aims to prevent the federal government from withholding funds from programs whose members participate in religious activities. Landrieu, a Democrat who faces re-election next year, introduced the measure in response to Bossier City's Young Marines Program, which she said was in danger of losing U.S. Department of Justice funding "because of voluntary prayer and the mention of God in the program," she said in a July 11 release.
"These kids are working to improve themselves and their communities; they deserve support, not unnecessary hurdles," Landrieu said. "It's legal, it's constitutional and it should not be singled out by the Justice Department."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana objects to the measure, saying it overreaches the First Amendment by requiring members of the program to participate in church activities.
One of the program's mottos is, "Keep myself clean in mind by attending the church of my faith." The program, run through Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office, says its members "learn to bond and relate with other young recruits and ... interact with caring adult mentors that 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," according to its website. — Alex Woodward