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News Release

U.S. Department of Labor Announces Proposed Rule Regarding Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations in U.S. Department of Labor-Supported Social Service Programs

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. Department of Labor (the Department) is proposing a rule that would implement President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13831 (May 3, 2018), remove regulatory burdens on religious organizations and ensure that religious and non-religious organizations are treated equally in Department-supported programs. The proposed rule is intended to better ensure that Department-supported social service programs are implemented in a manner that treats religious organizations fairly, consistent with the Constitution and other applicable federal law. The Department looks forward to public comments on the proposed rule.

“Our nation has a proud heritage of religious freedom, and of religious institutions providing care and support to the poor and needy,” said Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “Consistent with these traditions, this proposed rule would reverse regulatory changes that were made in 2016, so that religious organizations that receive federal grants may provide aid to the needy without posting a warning label regarding their faith, and without being subject to other burdens not placed on non-religious organizations.”

Under current regulations that govern Department-supported programs, religious providers of social services – but not other providers of social services – must make referrals to secular providers if they receive a complaint about the program’s religious character, must post notices regarding this referral procedure, maintain records about the referral, and notify beneficiaries of how to report violations of this referral process to the Department. These regulatory burdens were required by then-President Obama’s Executive Order No. 13559 (Nov. 17, 2010), but consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13831 (May 3, 2018), the Department’s proposed rule would eliminate these burdens. According to the Department’s proposed rule, these burdens were not required by any applicable law, and because they were imposed only on religious social service providers, they are in tension with recent Supreme Court precedent regarding nondiscrimination against religious organizations. The proposed rule also would foreclose other unequal treatment of religious organizations by ensuring that they are not required to provide assurances or notices that are not required of secular organizations.

In addition, the proposed rule would clarify that religious organizations may apply for awards on the same basis as any other organization and that when the Department selects award recipients, the Department will not discriminate based on an organization’s religious exercise or affiliation. The proposed rule also would clarify that religious organizations participating in Department-supported programs retain their independence from the government and may continue to carry out their missions consistent with religious freedom protections in federal law, including the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.

The proposed rule adopts the principles in the Attorney General’s 2017 Memorandum for All Executive Departments and Agencies, Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty. That memorandum was issued pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13798 (May 4, 2017), and it guides all federal administrative agencies and executive departments in complying with federal law.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Centers for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives
January 16, 2020
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Media Contact: Megan Sweeney
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