Thanks to Supreme Court's voucher decision, Wisconsin's faith-based program gets court approval
In January, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the state of Wisconsin's funding of a religious addiction-recovery program was unconstitutional because it "indoctrinates its participants in religion" (PDF). "Religion is so integral to the Faith Works program that it is not possible to isolate it from the program as a whole." But that part of the case dealt with a state contract with the Department of Workforce Development. A second part focused on a contract with the Department of Corrections, and was decided Friday.
Between the two district court decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision on government-funded vouchers for religious schools—and that apparently made all the difference. In Friday's decision (PDF), Crabb ruled that it doesn't matter how religious Faith Works is, so long as participants have the choice whether to participate in it.
"The problem with plaintiffs' argument is that it overlooks recent establishment clause precedent," Crabb wrote. "Although it is true that an over-arching goal of the establishment clause is to prevent the government from placing its imprimatur on religion, recent cases have held that private individuals can nullify any appearance of government endorsement through true private choice programs under which government aid reaches the religious program "only as a result of the genuine and independent choices of private individuals."
Prisoners who go to the Faith Works prerelease halfway house do so, she said, "as a result of their genuinely independent, private choice. Thus, any appearance that the government is endorsing Faith Works is overcome by the fact that offenders ...1
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