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OR youth ministry asks court to restore funding without forcing it to compromise beliefs

ADF attorneys representing 71Five Ministries file motion asking for approval of grant funding for at-risk youth programs
Youth 71Five Ministries Liberty Partk Community Center

MEDFORD, Ore. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a motion Wednesday that asks a federal district court to restore an Oregon youth ministry’s access to grant funding while its lawsuit continues against state officials who stripped the ministry of previously approved funds simply because it asks employees and volunteers to sign a statement of faith. 71Five Ministries filed the lawsuit earlier this month to protect its freedom to work with like-minded individuals who share its religious beliefs and mission.

71Five Ministries serves young people in Oregon of all faiths and backgrounds, including at-risk youth, young people in detention centers and correctional facilities, and expectant and parenting teens. The ministry’s mission statement says it “exists to share God’s Story of Hope with young people through trusting relationships in any relevant way.” It achieves its goal through employees and volunteers who share its mission and beliefs, as outlined by its statement of faith. From 2017 to 2023, 71Five Ministries applied for—and was granted—funds from Oregon’s biennial Youth Community Investment Grants program. When it applied for the next cycle, the ministry was first approved and then denied funding due to a new rule that requires that applicants “do not discriminate” based on religion “in [their] employment practices.”

“Simply being religious shouldn’t disqualify an organization from a program that exists to help those in need,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus. “71Five Ministries just wants to continue helping at-risk youths while remaining a Christian ministry. By stripping 71Five of its funding, Oregon is giving religious ministries an impossible choice: hire those who reject your beliefs to receive funding that everyone else can access or go without the funding. We are urging the court to follow U.S. Supreme Court precedent that upholds the First Amendment freedom of faith-based organizations to hire like-minded individuals. Such organizations cannot be forced to give up their religion to participate in generally available government programs.”

In 2021, 71Five Ministries had the top-rated application for the Youth Violence and Gang Prevention grant. After applying for several grants during the 2023-2025 grant cycle, the state first accepted the applications, and 71Five Ministries was set to receive more than $400,000 in grant funding. But three months later, an Oregon state official contacted the ministry’s executive director and informed him the ministry had been disqualified because of the statement of faith that employees and volunteers sign.

ADF attorneys filed the motion for preliminary injunction in Youth 71Five Ministries v. Williams in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Medford Division.

  • Pronunciation guide: Galus (GAL’-us)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Jeremiah Galus
Jeremiah Galus
Senior Counsel
Jeremiah Galus serves as senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is a key member of the Center for Christian Ministries.