The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published in the Federal Register a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking on Nondiscrimination in Matters Pertaining to Faith-Based Organizations. Following an initial proposal published in 2008, DHS proposes to issue a rule to ensure that faith-based organizations may compete on an equal footing with other organizations for direct federal financial assistance for which they are otherwise eligible, and to allow those groups to fully participate in federally supported social service programs, while beneficiaries under those programs also receive appropriate protections. The proposed rule would implement policy set forth in Executive Orders issued by President Barack Obama and by President George W. Bush, including Executive Order 13559, Fundamental Principles and Policymaking Criteria for Partnerships with Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Organizations (November 17, 2010).
The principal provisions of the proposed rule are:
- Equal treatment, nondiscrimination, and independence for faith-based organizations seeking to participate in social service programs funded by alongside assurance that such organizations may not discriminate against beneficiaries of the social service programs on the basis of the beneficiaries’ religion. Faith-based organizations participating in DHS programs would maintain their independence, including practice of their religious beliefs and selection of board members.
- DHS direct financial assistance could not be used to support explicitly religious activities. Indirect financial assistance – such as a voucher or certificate placed in the hands of a beneficiary, who can use the voucher with a choice of providers – could be used for programs with more religious content, so long as the beneficiary has a true choice of providers including an adequate secular option.
- Beneficiaries of social service programs provided through faith-based organizations would generally receive a notice of the protections afforded to them, and could seek a referral to a different provider for programs receiving direct DHS financial assistance.
- The existing statutory and regulatory provisions pertaining to employment discrimination based on religion would not be affected by the proposed rule.
A copy of the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking on Nondiscrimination in Matters Pertaining to Faith-Based Organizations is available here: http://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/08/06/2015-18257/nondiscrimination-in-matters-pertaining-to-faith-based-organizations. DHS is seeking public comment on the proposed rule. Any public comments must be received by October 5, 2015 and can be submitted through the eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, or by other means set forth in the proposed rule.
- Read more: Promoting Common-Ground Reforms of Social Service Partnerships,
White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (August 5, 2015)