State-Paid Preaching Prohibited: Court Says No To Counselor Who Was Addicted To Proselytizing

I take it as a given that people who want to preach should do it on their own time and their own dime. You have no right to use government resources to spread religious messages.

I was pleased to see this principle affirmed recently by a federal court in Louisiana.

A minister named Beulah Moore sued the Metropolitan Human Service District, asserting that the Louisiana government agency had violated her religious rights by ordering her to stop preaching to clients.

The agency offers help to people who are grappling with addiction problems and mental-health concerns. Among the options offered is a familiar “12-step” program that relies on a “higher power,” but that wasn’t enough for Moore. She wanted to offer specifically Christian counseling.

Moore’s supervisors told her to stop. She decided to resign instead, filing a lawsuit that claimed her civil rights had been violated.

The court didn’t buy it. U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana rejected Moore’s case, holding that the state had the right to curb Moore’s proselytizing to avoid church-state problems.

Moore claimed she was told not to even mention God to her clients. The court ruled that the evidence didn’t support this claim.

Observed Vance, “Metropolitan did not generally restrict Moore’s religious speech and activities in the workplace. By imposing restrictions only on Moore’s faith-based treatment of clients, Metropolitan avoided the undue hardship of a potential [church-state] violation. Moore has provided no evidence that Metropolitan limited her religious speech or activities in any other context.”

In other words, the court said Moore had no right to use her time at a government-paid job to preach to clients. That was exactly the right call.

Moore now runs a counseling service that promises to “minister to the mind, body, and spirit of today’s men and women.” Anyone who visits her Web site can tell that this is a faith-based approach.

That’s fine for those who want it – and indeed this private vehicle is the one Moore should use for preaching. It’s wholly inappropriate, however, in a government-run context.