ACLU Commends Biden Administration’s New Rules Protecting Religious Freedom for People Who Use Government-Funded Social Services

March 4, 2024 2:30 pm

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union commends the Biden administration’s finalized rules to restore religious freedom protections for people who use federally funded social services, including food banks, homeless or domestic violence shelters, job training, and elder care. The rules replace Trump administration regulations that had stripped away these safeguards.

“People who use government-funded social services are often already vulnerable or marginalized. These final rules will help ensure that they will not be pressured to participate in religious activities or be required to meet a religious litmus test in exchange for the help they need,” said Heather L. Weaver, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “We applaud and thank the Biden administration for implementing rules to restore these vital religious freedom protections.”

Specifically, the finalized regulations eliminate Trump-era provisions that were designed to allow religious social service providers to refuse to provide key services and that were intended to open the door to discrimination in taxpayer-funded programs. The new rules require that individuals seeking services be informed of their religious freedom rights, including that they cannot be discriminated against because of their religion or because they are nonreligious, that they cannot be required to pray or participate in religious activities, and that they may file a complaint if their rights are violated.

The rules apply to nine federal agencies: the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, and Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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