Education Dept to relax rules restricting faith-based institutions from getting federal aid

Education Dept to relax rules restricting faith-based institutions from getting federal aid
© Greg Nash

The Education Department is moving to change or remove rules that restrict religious institutions from receiving federal aid, according to a notice posted on Wednesday.

The department said it plans to review, amend or rescind the current restrictions placed on faith-based institutions “in order to be consistent with current law and to reduce or eliminate unnecessary burdens and restrictions on religious entities and activities," according to a copy of the department's spring regulatory agenda obtained by Politico.

"Various provisions of the department’s regulations regarding eligibility of faith-based entities and activities do not reflect the latest case law regarding religion or unnecessarily restrict religion,” an Education Department spokeswoman told The New York Times. “The department plans to review and to amend such regulations in order to be more inclusive.”

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The move comes after a June Supreme Court decision that held states must provide aid to some religious groups in certain scenarios.

Other members of the Trump administration have made similar calls to broaden faith-based allowances in government.

In a memo last fall, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions responds to Nazi comparisons: 'They were keeping the Jews from leaving' Laura Ingraham: Migrant child detention centers 'essentially summer camps' Senate chaplain offers prayer 'as children are being separated from their parents' MORE said “…[T]o the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity, including employment, contracting and programming.”

Such deregulation could open up some faith-based programs to federal funding from the Education Department.

Still, religious higher education institutions largely choose not to seek federal funding in order to steer clear of having to follow federal civil rights laws.

The Times noted that Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosVoters should keep eye on 2018 races for state attorneys general Dem lawmakers demand review of Education Department ethics program over official tied to for-profit colleges Restoring the power of the purse MORE’ brother, Erik Prince, attended Hillsdale College in Michigan, one such institution skipping out on federal aid. The DeVos family has made substantial gifts to the college.

The proposed rule change marks the latest regulatory rollback recommended by the Education Department since President TrumpDonald John Trump20 weeks out from midterms, Dems and GOP brace for surprises Sessions responds to Nazi comparisons: 'They were keeping the Jews from leaving' Kim Jong Un to visit Beijing this week MORE took office.

The department has rescinded several rules, including regulations protecting student loan borrowers and guidelines on campus sexual assault.