NAICU Washington Update

Guidance on Religious Liberty Released

October 02, 2020

The Department of Education issued new guidance detailing protections for religious liberty in the administration of its grant programs. The Department’s guidance is intended to implement a 2017 Executive Order requiring federal agencies to publish policies describing how they will comply with the Order’s directive to protect religious freedom and expression, including the political speech of religious individuals and organizations.
Under the guidance, the Department clarifies the specific regulations that protect religious liberty, including rules that ensure that religious organizations are equally eligible to participate in the agency’s grant programs as secular organizations. The guidance also notes that states relying on Blaine Amendments – state laws that prohibit state aid to religious organizations – to “deny faith-based organizations contracts or grants under Department regulations will be in violation of Department regulations against discrimination on the basis of an organization’s religious character or affiliation.”
In addition, the new guidance establishes a process for reporting incidents that burden religious exercise in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal statute that limits the government’s ability to enact laws of general applicability that substantially burden the exercise of religion.

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