Legislative criticism and a funding defeat prompted the leader of Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge addiction treatment program to defend his group in a letter to the Minnesota Senate.

The letter from Richard Scherber, executive director of the group, was prompted by the defeat of an amendment on Friday that would have funneled $1.5 million to the program.

Scherber said the group's programs are open to all people "regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin marital status or sexual orientation." He also said there is no discrimination against gay and lesbians who seek assistance.

Criticism arose last week when Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, offered an amendment to add $1.5 million in state funds to the program. Rosen said the program had great success and is depending on the state subsidy. But foes focused on the group's evangelical orientation.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he knew of gay people who were treated badly by the group. "I personally know folks who are gay, have gone to Teen Challenge, and came out in much tougher condition, tougher shape," Dibble said.

Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said court-ordered participants were not free to leave if they disagreed with the evangelical content of the program. And he said the program's fervent Christian orientation has been known to denigrate Jews.

Rosen's amendment was defeated on a 36-28 vote.

In his letter, released on the Senate floor on Monday. Scherber said, "Our mission is to help people find freedom their addictions and not try to change or denigrate anybody's sexual orientation or identity."