UI YMCA loses grant over affiliation dispute

The University YMCA recently lost an annual Catholic Campaign for Human Development grant, which supported their immigrant projects, because of a connection the campaign found to be contrary to the moral teachings of the Catholic church. 

This decision came after the campaign added a new condition into the grant, stipulating that the YMCA must cut ties with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, an organization that the YMCA receives much support from. The YMCA decided not to comply.

“We were notified when we reapplied for a second year of funding that it was going to be raised to $60,000, I think reflecting the good work that was happening here,” said Mike Doyle, executive director of the University YMCA. “But with that came the condition that we would have to withdraw from this state-wide organization that we work closely with because they had come out in support of same-sex marriage.” He added that the YMCA does not have a stance on same-sex marriage.

The first grant the YMCA received totaled $4,000 from the local Catholic church, and the second one was for $37,000 from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Doyle said.

“The bishops of the United States don’t want to fund groups that have taken positions contrary to the moral teachings of the Catholic church,” said Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He said because there are many people who live in poverty, the grants from the campaign are really competitive, which plays a big role in deciding which organizations receive grants from year to year. 

“The philosophy behind the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is this notion of the church supporting people who are going out into the world to help empower low income and marginalized people,” Clemmer said. “CCHD is a good example of that kind of work, of doing real work to empower marginalized people.” 

The grant funds come from a yearly donation of Catholics across the nation averaging about $10 million, and then the money is distributed according to need, Clemmer said. He said the local bishops must first approve every grant before it is sent to the national office for the grant funding to be distributed.

“You don’t have to be Catholic for the bishops to support your work, but the bishops can’t, in good conscience, take up donations from Catholics across the country and turn around and fund groups that advocate for abortion or gay marriage,” Clemmer said.

Doyle said there were two main reasons the YMCA rejected the new conditions: First, they did not feel comfortable giving a funder the power to tell them who and who not to be affiliated with, and second, it would undermine the work that the Y is doing with immigrants.

“It had nothing to do with something the church was concerned about,” Doyle said. “It had to do with our work around immigration. (The coalition) provided incredible resources and have been supportive of us.”

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights is one of the strongest statewide groups in the country and has been invaluable to the work they are doing, he said.

The coalition offers information and instruction on how to apply for services such as the Affordable Care Act and temporary driver’s licenses, its website explains.

An alumnus of the University works with the coalition, and he organizes workshops and series for immigrants at the YMCA as well as informational community meetings to raise awareness about immigration issues, said Samantha Busso, president of La Colectiva, a student group funded by the YMCA, and junior in LAS.

A few of the groups funded by the grant money are La Colectiva, a latino/latina mentoring program, La Linea, a Spanish language community support line, and C-U Immigration Forum, which was created to bring together all people in the Champaign-Urbana community who are doing work to help immigrants.

La Colectiva is a social justice organization, Busso said, and its members work closely volunteering with the driver’s license campaign helping immigrants register for temporary driver’s license as well as working with Urbana High School students through mentoring programs.

Lisa Sink, La Linea caseworker, said immigrants use the support line for referral information, interpretation services and case management. She said she meets with people to understand their needs and to help advocate for them to officials, such as child support offices, to accomplish these needs.

Megan Flowers, communications director of the University YMCA, said the YMCA plans to make up for the lost grant funding through reaching out into the community for support.

Flowers said the coalition is planning to provide some funding to groups like the YMCA for a year while the organizations devise plans to make up for the lost grant funding, but it is not guaranteed that they will receive these funds.

Busso said the YMCA financially supports La Colectiva, so in the future, the group is planning to look for alternative ways to raise funds for themselves and for the YMCA.

“The Yis a type of organization that supports multiple groups; it’s not just certain issues that they address, so I don’t see the Y being an organization where people are like ‘no, we don’t support their decisions so we’re not going to help them financially,’” she said.

Claire can be reached at hettngr2@dailyillini.com.