Local Christian organization files lawsuit, was stripped of $400k grant

MEDFORD, Ore.– A Medford Christian organization is suing the Oregon Department of Education and its Youth Development Division after it said it was stripped of $400,000 in grant money.

The lawsuit said a new rule prohibits faith-based organizations from receiving grants, if they prefer members of their own faith as employees or volunteers.

Youth 71Five Ministries said they have been receiving grants from Oregon’s ‘Youth Community Investment Grant Program’ for years.

They believe this new rule is unconstitutional because it discriminates against their organization, on the basis of religion.

71Five Ministries Executive Director Bud Amundsen said, “we have that right. It’s been removed. We want it returned and secured so that we can work in the lives of young people.”

Youth 71Five Ministries has operated in Medford for the last 60 years, under various names.

It provides youth mentoring services across Southern Oregon, including community centers and camps in a number of locations.

Earlier this month, Youth 71Five filed a lawsuit after it says it was stripped of $400,000 in grants by the state Department of Education.

Attorneys with the ‘Alliance Defending Freedom’, or ADF, believe the state’s new rule violates the first amendment rights of 71Five Ministries.

Senior Counsel from ADF Jeremiah Galus said, “the Supreme Court has said, very clearly, three times now in the past seven years, that government officials cannot exclude a religious organization from an otherwise available government program, just because of their religious character and beliefs.”

ADF said Oregon’s ‘Youth Community Investment Grant Program’ changed its rules for the 2023-2025 grant cycle, to prohibit organizations like 71Five from preferring members of their own faith as employees or volunteers.

They said it’s not fair for the state to expect a Christian ministry to hire people who aren’t religious.

Employment applications for Youth 71Five include a number or religious questions, including asking about the applicants faith background and asking them to agree to a statement of faith.

“We are given freedom to alight our staff and volunteers with our mission,” Amundsen said, “we exist to share God’s story of hope with young people through trusting relationships in any relevant way.”

Amundsen said the grant was originally awarded to 71Five in June of 2023 and then stripped away three months later.

For Amundsen, the grant money is absolutely vital to his organization.

“Money buys time, right? That’s where having that awarded and us making plans to accomplish programs with that funding and then having it pulled puts us in a really tough spot,” Amundsen said.

NBC5 reached out to Brian Detman, the director of ODE’s Youth Development Division.

He said the organization will not comment on any pending legal action.

© 2024 KOBI-TV NBC5. All rights reserved unless otherwise stated.

Former NBC5 News reporter Derek Strom is from Renton, Washington. He recently graduated from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University with a degree in Broadcast News and a minor in Sports Management. He played in the drumline with the WSU marching band. These days, he plays the guitar and piano. Derek is a devoted fan of the Mariners, Seahawks, and Kraken.
Skip to content