Trump grants 'Hookers for Jesus' $500K in DOJ funding, only 6% of last federal grant used to help sex workers

The Las Vegas-based nonprofit received $498,764 in federal grant funds after Trump administration awarded them $530,190 last year, stirring a controversy

                            Trump grants 'Hookers for Jesus' $500K in DOJ funding, only 6% of last federal grant used to help sex workers
(Getty Images)

A Las Vegas-based nonprofit, Hookers for Jesus, has reportedly received $498,764 in federal grant funds from the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The Trump administration had also awarded $530,190 last year, stirring a controversy. It has now been revealed that the organization, which claims to support women leaving sex work and trafficking, only claimed about six percent of the fund awarded to it in 2019. 

A union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, local 2830, last year, had reportedly filed a whistleblower complaint with the DOJ's inspector generals over allegations that "more qualified anti-trafficking organizations had been denied funding based on their apparent opposition to President Donald Trump."  

Hookers for Jesus, founded by sex trafficking survivor Annie Lobert, was formulated as a Christian organization in 2007. The organization operates Destiny House, a one-year safehouse program for women leaving sex-work and sex-trafficking. It also reportedly runs multiple outreach, speaking, and educational programs.

The group was slammed last year over the rules of its safe house, which forbids guests from calling certain people, bringing purses on shopping trips, reading "secular magazines with articles, pictures, etc. that portray worldly views/advice on living, sex, clothing, makeup tips," according to Newsweek. The group also requires mandatory attendance of its religious services weekly. The group's staff manual in 2018 also referred to homosexuality as immoral and deemed recreational drug use as "witchcraft."

The group's founder, Lobert, while talking to Reuters, however, had defended her organization, stating that its religious services were not mandatory and that its staff manual "probably" did not contain controversial statements on homosexuality, according to reports. She also insisted that her organization does not discriminate based on people's sexual orientation and religion. Reports state that any group which discriminates should technically not be eligible for federal funding, however, the DOJ has claimed that materials like the staff handbook and other policies were not required for funding application. 

After last year's controversy over the Trump administration's favoring of the group, the union sought an investigation into the issue. Reviewers who evaluated grant applications in 2019 concluded that the staff of Hookers for Jesus had little experience in handling forms of human trafficking involving minors, men and foreign nationals.

Reports state that the DOJ reviewers also ranked two other anti-trafficking organizations in its funding as more deserving — Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach and Chicanos Por La Causa of Phoenix. However, the Justice Department chose Hookers for Jesus over the other two long-established organizations because there were no other high-scoring applications in Nevada for the grant funds linked to anti-trafficking. The two groups had previously participated in the Democratic National Committee. 

The union had reportedly asked the DOJ inspector general to probe whether the federal department had excluded grant application reviewers who had views contrary to Trump and whether the two other groups were excluded from the list because they opposed Trump's immigration policies. The two groups, this year, received a combined DOJ grant amount of over $885,000, reports state. 

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