Oppose the Trump Administration’s Dangerous Rollbacks of Religious Freedom Protections for People Seeking Federally Funded Social Services
Next Tuesday, February 18th, is the deadline to submit public comments on why religious discrimination shouldn’t be permitted in social service programs funded by the federal government.
Currently, social service providers that receive federal funding must not discriminate against people they serve based on their religion, or force those they serve to participate in religious activities. And if an individual is uncomfortable seeking services through the faith-based agency, the agency must take reasonable steps to find an alternative.
What would the proposed rules change?
Eight federal agencies have proposed substantial changes to existing protections. Notably, these agencies administer social service programs that touch nearly every areas of life for millions of people ranging from job training programs to substance use treatment and meal programs to support services for survivors of crimes:
- The Department of Education
- The Department of Agriculture
- The U.S. Agency for International Development
- The Department of Justice
- The Department of Health and Human Services
- The Department of Veterans Affairs
- The Department of Homeland Security
- The Department of Labor
What the Trump administration has proposed undermines protections for vulnerable populations by upending this current system in several ways, including:
- Removing the requirement that providers refer people to alternative providers if requested. For instance, this means that a Muslim person might forgo counseling for a mental illness, substance use disorder, or HIV/AIDS because the only program they know of is in a church adorned with Christian iconography.
- Allowing social service providers that are even loosely religiously affiliated to use a religious litmus test in hiring while still receiving federal funding. Several of the proposed rules would go even further and allow discrimination against women and LGBTQ people, so long as the employer cited a religious basis for the discrimination.
- Stripping the requirement that providers give people written notice of their religious freedom rights. Refusing to inform beneficiaries of their rights leaves them vulnerable because they don’t know they can object to discrimination, proselytization, or religious coercion when getting government-funded services.
- Adding special notices to grant announcements and awards to inform faith-based organizations that they can seek additional religious exemptions from federal laws and regulations governing the programs.
The bottom line
The proposed rules open the door to taxpayer-funded discrimination against employees and people seeking vital services such as school lunch programs and food banks, college preparedness programs and work study programs for low-income college students, assistance for trafficked youth and prison reentry programs, substance use programs, foster care and adoption services, and more.
Share your thoughts with the Trump Administration about what this proposed rule means to you and your family: http://bit.ly/38nDdGf