NAICU Washington Update

New Rules Promote Faith-Based Organizations’ Access to Federal Programs

December 17, 2020

The Trump Administration has published final regulations clarifying the rights and obligations of faith-based organizations to participate in and receive aid under federal programs and activities. 

Issued as a joint rule by multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Education, the regulatory initiative is intended to ensure that federal financial assistance programs “are implemented in a manner consistent with the requirements of Federal law, including the First Amendment to the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” as well as a series of Executive Orders.

Among other provisions, the regulations: 
  • Specify that faith-based organizations may apply for awards on the same basis as other organizations;
  • Clarify that participating faith-based organizations may carry out their missions consistent with federal law;
  • Instruct that faith-based organizations may not discriminate against beneficiaries on certain religious grounds;
  • Clarify that faith-based organizations retain their independence, religious character, and right of expression;
  • Specify that accommodations for faith-based institutions may be available; and
  • Clarify the standards for permissible discrimination on the basis of religion with respect to employment or board membership.
The new regulations, which go into effect on January 19, 2021, are part of a larger effort by the Trump Administration to ensure the equal participation and treatment of religious entities. 

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