Silk on Stearns' Ruling

by Michael Sean Winters

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Mark Silk at his RNS blog takes a different view of last week's decision by Judge Stearns regarding the Establishment Clause and the HHS contracts awarded to the USCCB to combat human trafficking. Yesterday, I wrote about that decision here.

I think Silk is factually wrong when he states that the USCCB was given the right to administer the entire program. Certainly, other contract providers were awarded contracts this past year when the USCCB was denied a contract renewal. But, either way, my sense is that HHS has every right to consider whether or not the USCCB will, or will not, provide certain services that HHS desires, but that such services should not be a trump card. If, in every other way, the USCCB is best positioned to provide the other objectives of a given program, they should get the contract. Silk notes that Stearns wrote, citing a Supreme Court decision, that the State's accommodation to religious principles "is not a principle without limits." True enough. But, under Stearns' ruling, it seems to me that accommodation becomes a principle that has nothing but limits.

Finally, I would say that awarding contracts to social service providers hardly constitutes "establishment" in my book.

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