Hookers for Jesus says it is “trusting God” after a whistleblower complaint named the group as one of two lesser qualified organizations that received more than $1 million in funding from a U.S. Justice Department anti-human trafficking grant program over other organizations.
An internal department memo cited in a Reuters report showed that as of Sept. 12, two long-established nonprofits – the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach and Chicanos Por La Causa of Phoenix – were originally on the list of recommended grant winners after receiving high marks from outside contractors hired to review applications. Later that month, those two organizations were replaced by Hookers for Jesus and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation, which both received lower rankings and were not recommended for grants by outside reviewers.
A Sept. 23 memo says the change was made in an effort to “distribute funding across as many states as possible.”
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local 2830 filed a complaint asking the inspector general to investigate whether politics factored in the two grant awards in December Reuters said.
Chicanos Por La Causa has opposed the Trump administration’s immigration policies while the head of Catholic Charities in Palm Beach has reportedly participated in past Democratic National Committees as a delegate or standing committee member.
Hookers for Jesus, a mission-driven nonprofit that seeks to help individuals impacted by sex trafficking and the adult entertainment industry, did not respond immediately to questions from The Christian Post Wednesday but a statement on the Facebook page of the nonprofit run by born-again Christian human trafficking survivor Annie Lobert said, “Don’t believe everything you read—especially when news is written from a biased slant.”
The nonprofit then added on Tuesday: “Trusting God to be our defense in all false accusations, slander & slanted opinions. While we may be misunderstood by many—we know we do great work in helping so many ladies be freed of tyranny, torture & trauma. We love without agenda, serve without coercion & help without a motive.”
Lobert founded the organization in 2005 after turning to Jesus during a near-death experience. She had been working as an escort in Las Vegas for 16 years and was a drug addict. She said she heard God tell her to reach out to other struggling women on the strip.
Hookers for Jesus, which was awarded a grant of $530,190 over three years, provides case management and support, individual health and wellness programs; skills assessment, retraining, and career development assistance; criminal justice support; juvenile offender mentorship; community awareness seminars and workshops; and human services programming, according to its website.
The nonprofit also runs The Destiny House, a faith-filled free 6-12 month program founded in 2007 to help women who are looking for the opportunity to escape from and re-establish their lives outside of the sex industry.
“Our program consists of customized case planning that focuses on the whole person: emotional, mental, spiritual, relational and physical healing,” the organization says.
“By the time each lady graduates Destiny House program, she will have healing, stability, a vocation and a job under her belt, with funds saved to succeed into her future!”
Dallas Hammer, an attorney specializing in discrimination law argued that government funding of Hookers for Jesus could be “problematic” because: “The decision-makers here could be walking the federal government right into a clear violation of the First Amendment,” which protects freedom of religion.
Lobert denied to Reuters that her organization requires safe house residents to attend services at her church. “We are not going to discriminate toward anyone,” she said. “But we are Christian. And there is an understanding before they come in here that we are Christian.”