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Youth ministry challenges OR state officials for pulling funds due to religious hiring practices

ADF attorneys available for media interviews Tuesday following hearing
Youth 71Five Ministries Hilderbrand Youth Center

WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys

WHAT: Available for media interviews following oral arguments in Youth 71Five Ministries v. Williams

WHEN: Immediately following telephonic hearing, which begins at 2:00 p.m. PDT, Tuesday, May 21

WHERE: U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, 310 West Sixth St., Medford. To schedule an interview, contact ADF Media Relations Specialist Jacqueline Ribeiro at (202) 961-9396.

MEDFORD, Ore. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing an Oregon youth ministry will be available for media interviews Tuesday following oral arguments at a federal district court. The youth ministry is suing state officials who stripped the ministry of previously approved funds simply because it asks employees and volunteers to sign a statement of faith. ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit in March.

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.”

“71Five Ministries provides vital support and care to anyone who needs it, but Oregon state officials are punishing it because it’s a Christian ministry asking volunteers and staff to agree to Christian beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus, who will be arguing before the court. “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.

In a reply brief in Youth 71Five Ministries v. Williams filed earlier this month, ADF attorneys noted that Oregon officials granted funds to other organizations that offer limited services—like a program that serves girls and posted on its website why it does not serve boys—but they are punishing 71Five for posting that it only hires and takes volunteers who agree with Christian teaching.

  • Pronunciation guide: 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.