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 SessionsDOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy 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 DeVosTrump aides pushed for states' ability to block migrant kids from enrolling in public schools: report Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid Buttigieg to Detroit audience: Don't judge Indiana by Pence and we won't judge Michigan by DeVos 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 TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE took office.

The department has rescinded several rules, including regulations protecting student loan borrowers and guidelines on campus sexual assault.