Thursday, August 06, 2015

9 Federal Agencies Propose Rules On Grants To Faith-Based Organizations

Yesterday nine federal agencies issued Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs) to implement many of the recommendations made in 2010 by President Obama's  Advisory Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. (See prior posting.) In November 2010 President Obama signed Executive Order 13559 approving a number of the recommendations.  Yesterday's actions constitute the next step in assuring that agencies providing grants to faith-based organizations implement these recommendations.  As described by the White House in a blog post from the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships:
The proposed rules clarify the principle that organizations offering explicitly religious activities may not subsidize those activities with direct federal financial assistance and must separate such activities in time or location from programs supported with direct federal financial assistance.  For example, if a faith-based provider offers a Bible study as well as a federally supported job training program, the Bible study must be privately funded and separated in time or location from the job training program. 
The NPRMs also propose new protections for beneficiaries or prospective beneficiaries of social service programs that are supported by direct federal financial assistance.  In the proposed rules, the agencies set forth a notice to beneficiaries and prospective beneficiaries that informs them of these protections.  These notices would make it clear, for example, that beneficiaries may not be discriminated against on the basis of religion or religious belief or be required to participate in any religious activities and advises beneficiaries that they may request an alternative provider if they object to the religious character of their current provider.
At the same time, the NPRMs assure religious providers of their equal ability to compete for government funds and of continuing protections for their religious identity like the ability of providers to use religious terms in their organizational names and to include religious references in mission statements and in other organizational documents. ...
Links to the proposals from each agency can be found at the end of the White House blog post.  Both Americans United and the ADL issued statements welcoming yesterday's developments, but expressed concern that the proposed rules do not bar faith-based groups from hiring on the basis of religion in federally funded programs.