The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) awarded $500,000 worth of taxpayer money to an anti-human trafficking group with the name “Hookers for Jesus” and another half-million to a group known as the “Lincoln Tubman Foundation,” even though other, more reputable groups had been recommended to receive the funding, Newsweek reports:

“A September 12 internal DOJ memo recommended that the grant money go to the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach and Chicanos Por La Causa of Phoenix, according to an exclusive report by Reuters. The recommendations were based on reviews from outside contractors. Instead, the grant money went to two organizations the contractors gave lower ratings: Hookers for Jesus and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation.

“The funding decision was made in order to ‘distribute funding across as many states as possible,’ according to a September 23 memo obtained by Reuters. Head of the Office of Justice Programs, Katharine Sullivan, approved the decision, telling Reuters, “Our funding decisions are based on a merit-based review system.”

Hookers for Jesus, it should be noted, bills itself as a Christian organization and was founded in 2007 by Annie Lobert, who had been a victim of human trafficking. It operates Destiny House, a safehouse for human trafficking victims.

But some of the restrictions placed on those who stay at the safehouse have been criticized:

“Lobert’s organization, which was given $530,190 over three years, is controversial due to its strict rules in the safehouse, banning ‘secular magazines with articles, pictures, etc. that portray worldly views/advice on living, sex, clothing, makeup tips,’ and mandatory attendance of the organization’s religious services. However, Lobert denies that the house’s residents are forced to attend services.”

The organization’s staff manual also calls homosexuality immoral and may be in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.

The Lincoln Tubman Foundation is also being called into question for the grant money given to it, even though it is said to have “little to no experience” in the field of helping victims of human trafficking, according to DOJ memos attached to the recommendation of funding. The headquarters for the group is in a mansion owned by the parents of the group’s founder,  Brooke Burris, who told Reuters she is currently  trying to find office space.

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