This week, Melissa Rogers, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, announced new regulations relevant to faith-based organizations that participate in federally funded social service programs. Nine major government departments rolled out largely unified rules that the White House believes will help protect the religious liberty rights of individuals receiving aid from such service programs and will help ensure religious organizations are treated like any other private organization as it bids for funding.
The new regulations affirm that faith-based organizations can, indeed, participate in federal programs, but clarify that public money cannot be used for "explicitly religious activities." They also will require religious organizations that are direct recipients of federal funds to notify in writing those whom they serve that they cannot discriminate against beneficiaries on the basis of religious belief. The faith-based groups must also make reasonable efforts to refer beneficiaries to other similar aid organizations, if the beneficiary objects to their religious mission.
In her announcement, which links to the full text of the new rules, Ms. Rogers said, “These regulations build on widespread agreement that we can and should do more to protect the religious liberty of beneficiaries and provide greater clarity and transparency about applicable church-state rules. These reforms will strengthen partnerships that serve people in need, and we commend the agencies for working together to issue these final regulations.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: April 1, 2016