Supreme Court: Anti-AIDS Program Can't Require Groups to Oppose Prostitution
Image: Mark Wilson / Getty

The U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) policy requiring funded groups to explicitly oppose prostitution is no more—and some faith-based groups say that's good news even though they don't support prostitution.

In a ruling this morning, Supreme Court decided 6-2 that the government can't require grantees to publicly share its views on issues not directly related to the program it is funding.

"The policy requirement goes beyond preventing recipients from using private funds in a way that would undermine the federal program," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his summary of the majority decision. "It requires them to pledge allegiance to the government's policy of eradicating prostitution.

In the full decision, Roberts said the anti-prostitution policy was significantly different from other funding rules, like the rule barring groups from using federal funds to advocate abortion. In that case, Roberts said, organizations could still use private funds to promote abortion. The rules change, he said, when the government asks a grantee to take a stand beyond the scope of the government prgram. "By requiring recipients to profess a specific belief, the Policy Requirement goes beyond defining the limits of the federally funded program to defining the recipient."

That's an important victory for evangelical and faith-based groups that promote certain religious beliefs along with their services, says Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The ruling strikes down an anti-prostitution policy in the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a Bush-era program to fight HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR previously ...

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