The Department of Justice employee union has filed a whistleblower complaint over a questionable allocation of resources.
A major grant, reserved for nonprofits fighting human trafficking, has been awarded to Hookers for Jesus in Nevada and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation in South Carolina, reports Reuters.
These organizations — from Nevada and South Carolina, respectively — had not been high on the list of the department's recommendations for the grant, which totals over $1 million.
Contractors hired to assess credibility had ranked two other established organizations, the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach and Chicanos Por La Causa of Phoenix, as the recommended winners, according to a September 12 memo obtained by the news wire.
However, by the end of the month, Hookers for Jesus and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation replaced these groups as the front-runners on the list. The reason, stated a September 23 memo, was to “distribute funding across as many states as possible.”
The grants are awarded by the DOJ's Office of Justice Programs. Katharine Sullivan, the OJP head who approved the grants, defended the choice and maintained that "funding decisions are based on a merit-based review system."
However, under the system instituted by the DOJ, independent contractors had ranked Hookers for Jesus and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation as Tier 2 and the other two groups as Tier 1. Relying on these rankings, Department of Justice staffers had recommended the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach and Chicanos Por La Causa as the grant recipients.
“Tier 1 generally is your default. They all get funded unless there is some kind of legitimate reason not to fund them,” Jean Bruggeman, a former fellow of the DOJ Office for the Victims of Crime, told Reuters.
There may be political reasons for the grant decision. Chicanos Por La Causa has stood against the Trump administration's draconian immigration policies, while the leader of Catholic Charities has in the pasted served as a delegate in Democratic National Committees.
Hookers for Jesus, a resource for women survivors of human trafficking run by a born-again Christian, reportedly requires religious involvement. According to a 2018 manual obtained by Reuters, it considers being gay immoral and forbids those living in its safe house from reading “secular magazines with articles, pictures, etc. that portray worldly views/advice on living, sex, clothing, makeup tips.”
Additionally, past grant reviewers have expressed concern that the group treats sex-trafficking survivors like “prisoners,” requiring forced Bible study and punishing those who break rules with chores like window-washing.
Now, after receiving federal funding — $530,190 over three years — the group's Christian-tied requirements listed in the manual could run afoul of federal law. However, founder Annie Lobert denied her organization as inclusive. “We are not going to discriminate toward anyone,” Lobert told Reuters. “But ... we are Christian. And there is an understanding before they come in here that we are Christian.”
Lobert also expressed ignorance of the antigay views outlined in the 2018 manual. “That is probably something we don’t have anymore,” she said.