Agencies finalize religious liberty rule

Agencies finalize religious liberty rule
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Federal agencies finalized a rule Thursday to protect recipients of social services from being discriminated against by faith-based organizations administering the programs.

Under the religious liberty rule, a person receiving social services can request an alternative provider if they disagree with the religious beliefs of an organization.

The joint rule — from the departments of Education, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Agency for International Development — requires faith-based organizations awarded a grant to carry out a program to notify their beneficiaries, in writing, that they may not be discriminated against based on religion.

The rule also prohibits religious groups from forcing beneficiaries or prospective beneficiaries to attend or participate in any explicitly religious activities that are offered by the organization, and requires them to separate the times or location of privately funded religious activities from activities supported directly by federal financial assistance.

“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,” Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said in a news release. “These reforms will strengthen partnerships that serve people in need, and we commend the agencies for working together to issue these final regulations.”