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Joint Final Rule on Equal Treatment for Faith-Based Orgs to be Enforced in January

Nine federal agencies announced a joint final rule regarding equal treatment of faith-based organizations in different social service programs supported by the government.

In a press release issued on December 14, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture, the Agency for International Development, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the rule will implement President Trump’s Executive Order on the Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative. In addition to ensuring equal treatment for faith-based organizations, the rule clarified that the organizations will still keep their legal protections even if they receive federal funds for their programs.

Religious liberty is a bedrock founding principle that this Administration consistently demonstrates its commitment to vigorously defend. —U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

The agencies welcomed the latest development in safeguarding religious liberties in the country.

“Religious liberty is a bedrock founding principle that this Administration consistently demonstrates its commitment to vigorously defend,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

“At the Department of Education, we’re continuing to ensure faith-based organizations, including faith-based institutions, do not give up their First Amendment rights as a condition of participating in taxpayer programs. We will continue to ensure faith-based educational providers are treated equally alongside their secular counterparts. Under this Administration, religious discrimination in education is never tolerated.”

Labor Eugene Scalia said, “The Department of Labor is pleased to join other Departments across the Administration in ensuring that religious organizations participate on an equal footing with non-religious organizations in federal programs for delivering assistance to the poor and underprivileged. This new rule respects the Constitution’s principles of religious freedom, and religious organizations’ timeless commitment to charity toward those in need.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf thanked the Trump Administration for protecting all religious organizations in the country. “This initiative is yet another step in the right direction to ensure that faith-based organizations maintain their legal rights and protections under the law.”

The statement said, “This final rule ensures equal treatment for faith-based organizations, consistent with the Constitution and other federal law. It removes requirements in prior regulations that placed unequal burdens on faith-based organizations, cast unwarranted suspicion on them, and were in tension with their religious liberty rights.”

The rule removes certain requirements for faith-based organizations, such as the requirement to inform patients that for religious reasons they do not provide certain services and to refer patients to another provider that offer such services.

“Americans of faith play an essential role in providing healthcare and human services to so many vulnerable people and communities, and President Trump is dedicated to removing every unfair barrier that stands in the way of this important work,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

 

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