Congress Passes 'Freedom to Pray' Legislation With Spending Bill

A "freedom to pray" provision authored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) to address a controversy involving voluntary prayer in Louisiana's Young Marines program was added to the omnibus spending bill, which was passed by Congress this week.

Landrieu first introduced a bill last summer, the "Freedom to Pray Act," after the Young Marines were denied a U.S. Department of Justice grant because it allowed voluntary prayer and mentioned God. Rather than pass that stand alone bill, the main components of the "Freedom to Pray Act" was added to the FY 2014 spending bill.

The legislation directs the DOJ to review its grant guidelines and to ensure that those guidelines include allowing recipients to engage in voluntary prayer.

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"Programs like the Young Marines in Bossier City will now have peace of mind knowing that they will not have their funding revoked because they offer voluntary prayer or other religious activities," Landrieu said. "The Department of Justice's overreach threatened not only the positive contributions of Young Marines to Bossier, but community enhancement programs like this across the country. I'm proud to have secured this provision that will help avoid the unnecessary conflict that the Young Marines experienced the last couple years with the Department of Justice."

The omnibus spending bill for FY 2014 passed the House Wednesday, 359-67, and passed the Senate Thursday, 72-26. President Barack Obama has said he will sign the bill.

Landrieu, a Democrat, had added four Republican cosponsors for the "Freedom to Pray Act" – Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Roberts (Kan.).

The Young Marines is a program run by the Bossier Sheriff's Office in Bossier Parish, La. DOJ officials began investigating whether to withdraw its funding of the program in 2012.

The purpose of the program for boys and girls age eight through high school is "character building and the cornerstone of the program is the Young Marines obligation, creed and core values," according to its website.

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