Thursday, January 21, 2021

Suit Challenges Trump Administration's Loosening of Limits On Faith-Based Federally Funded Programs

Suit was filed this week in a New York federal district court by seven advocacy groups challenging the Trump Administration's loosening of restrictions on faith-based organizations' operation of programs and activities funded by federal grants. The complaint (full text) in MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger v. Azar, (SD NY, filed 1/19/2021) alleges in part:

Because the Agencies provide no reasonable justification for the rule change, because they fail to account for the harms caused by the 2020 Rule, because their reasoning is inconsistent and contrary to the record, and because they fail to consider obvious alternatives, the 2020 Rule is arbitrary and capricious in violation of the APA.

The complaint explains the challenged rule as follows:

The 2020 Rule eliminates the common-sense and agreed-upon requirements from the 2016 Rule, such as that beneficiaries receiving services from a faith-based provider receive a notice of their rights not to be discriminated against based on religion and the option to request a referral to an alternate provider. These requirements imposed virtually no burden, but provided beneficiaries with much-needed information empowering them to protect their own religious liberty.

The 2016 rule reflected a consensus proposal of a number of different interest groups. American Atheists issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.