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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 SessionsAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Tuberville incorrectly says Gore was president-elect in 2000 Next attorney general must embrace marijuana law reforms 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 DeVosWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration America has a civic education problem — here's how to fix it Biden's Education secretary must expel the harmful policies of the last four years 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 TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE took office.

The department has rescinded several rules, including regulations protecting student loan borrowers and guidelines on campus sexual assault.