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Landrieu writes provision to protect programs with voluntary religious activities

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Sen. Mary Landrieu aimed at protecting Bossier's Young Marines Program Sen. Mary Landrieu aimed at protecting Bossier's Young Marines Program
BOSSIER PARISH, La. (KTBS) -

A provision written by Senator Mary Landrieu to protect programs, like the Young Marines in Bossier City, that permit voluntary prayer, has been included in the final bill that funds the government for Fiscal Year 2014.

RELATED STORY: Bossier Sheriff's Office to hold "In God We Trust" rally

Sen. Landrieu's provision will require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the Office of Justice Programs' (OJP) grant guidelines and ensure those guidelines protect grant recipients' ability to voluntary exercise their right to express their religious beliefs.

RELATED STORY: Open records and documents behind Young Marines funding

"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," Sen. 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."

RELATED STORY: In God We Trust banners placed at Bossier Parish substations

OJP will have to submit a review of its grant guidelines and regulations to the Appropriations Committee within 45 days. The review will also require DOJ to outline plans to improve the Department's outreach activities to potential grant applicants regarding the right of program participants to participate in voluntary religious activities.

RELATED STORY: Bossier Young Marines Program funding revoked 

Since June 2012, Sen. Landrieu has been working on this issue after she learned from a constituent email that the Young Marines program might lose federal investment from the Department of Justice (DOJ) because of voluntary prayer and the mention of God in the program. Sen. Landrieu and her staff have been in frequent contact with local officials and senior DOJ leadership to try and resolve this problem, so the program can continue to receive federal funding and serve the community. In July 2013, Sen. Landrieu introduced the Freedom to Pray Act, a stand-alone bill to address this issue, which has gained broad bipartisan support.

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