“Faith-based” groups that provide public services with taxpayer money must not discriminate against beneficiaries based on the latter’s religious beliefs, the Obama administration announced in March.
The new regulations cover nine federal agencies. They clarify that faith-based groups providing federally funded social services cannot discriminate against beneficiaries based on religion, require them to participate in religious activities or offer “explicitly religious activities” within those programs.
The regulations require that beneficiaries be given written notice of their rights, and if those in need object to the religious character of the organization, the group must “undertake reasonable efforts” to find another provider and give a referral.
But the regulations do not prohibit faith-based contractors from practicing employment discrimination. They are still permitted to hire and fire based on an individual’s religious affiliation.
In a statement to media, Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn praised the administration for taking steps to protect individuals who rely on the services provided by these publicly-funded contractors. But he also asked the administration to do more to defend the First Amendment.
“It’s great that the administration has implemented rules to better protect the religious freedom of beneficiaries of these programs,” Lynn said. “The administration should now put a stop to federally funded employment discrimination, which remains a blot on the president’s record on civil rights.”