Alliance Defending Freedom client By The Hand Club For Kids got a dose of good news shortly before the New Year.
On Dec. 30, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the state’s Department of Employment Security was wrong to say this religious ministry to underprivileged children was operated for secular, as opposed to religious, purposes.
By The Hand Club For Kids is a ministry of The Moody Church in Chicago. The ministry “takes kids by the hand and walks with them from kindergarten through college, loving and nurturing them, mind, body and soul” through its Christ-centered after-school program.
And while By The Hand is a Christian ministry, it welcomes all children—regardless of their religious background—to participate in its programs and benefit from the free food, medical care, and education that it provides.
Despite the fact that By The Hand is a religious, non-profit ministry, the Illinois Department of Employment Security has insisted on taxing By The Hand for years—all because By The Hand’s religious beliefs compel it to meet the many diverse, concrete needs of children in its community.
But every aspect of By The Hand’s work, including its provision of hot meals and tutoring services, is a genuine exercise of their faith—an act of worship. And the ministry also highlights its religious purpose and identity in other ways, including requiring staff members to sign a statement of faith acknowledging that they are practicing Christians and holding regular Bible studies and chapel services for the students.
As ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus said: “By The Hand’s after-school ministry to needy school children is directly motivated by its Christian faith and convictions. The state agency truly erred by recharacterizing them as secular activities.”
This is an important decision. And we are hopeful that it will motivate other state governments to respect their faith-based allies and the important ways ministries serve under-resourced communities.
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