Catholics need not apply

The Obama administration is cutting off funding for a program to fight sex-trafficking run by the Catholic Church, despite the independent review board’s recommendation that the program be renewed:

In the case of the trafficking contract, senior political appointees at HHS stepped in to award the new grants to the bishops’ competitors, overriding an independent review board and career staffers who had recommended that the bishops be funded again, according to federal officials and internal HHS documents. . .

The decision not to fund the bishops this time has caused controversy inside HHS. A number of career officials refused to sign documents connected to the grant, feeling that the process was unfair and politicized, individuals familiar with the matter said. Their concerns have been reported to the HHS inspector general’s office.

HHS policies spell out that career officials usually oversee grant competitions and select the winners, giving priority consideration to the review board’s judgment. The policies do not prohibit political appointees from getting involved, though current and former employees said it is unusual, especially for high-level officials.

There is little doubt about why the political staff overruled the independent review board. The politicals made it clear from the outset that Catholics would not be considered:

This spring, as the contract approached its expiration, HHS political appointees became involved in reshaping the request for proposals, adding a “strong preference” for applicants offering referrals for family planning and the “full range” of “gynecological and obstetric care.’’

That the review board selected the Catholic organization anyway, despite the “strong preference” for anyone else, indicates how superior their application must have been to the others. But the Obama administration decided that fighting sex trafficking was a lower priority than advancing its abortion agenda.

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