The Biden administration announced on Feb. 28 that it is rescinding a Trump-era U.S. Department of Labor rule that expanded a religious exemption that allowed federal contractors to discriminate in hiring.
The Trump rule expanded a policy from the presidency of George W. Bush that permitted faith-based federal contractors to give hiring preference to people of the same religion. The Bush policy, though problematic, was narrow. The Trump regulation, on the other hand, called for a broad interpretation of the exemption, extending it to contractors that are only nominally religious, and even to for-profit corporations.
The Trump rule’s preamble also asserted that the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow employers to discriminate not just on the basis of an employee’s religion, but also based on other protected characteristics such as sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Biden administration has restored the pre-Trump era rule.
Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United, hailed the action.
“Our country’s fundamental principle of church-state separation promises everyone the freedom to believe as they want, so long as they don’t use their religious beliefs to harm others,” Laser said. “No one should be turned away from a government-funded job because they can’t meet a religious test. No one should be forced to live by their employer’s religious beliefs. The harmful Trump policy encouraged and allowed for-profit federal contractors to use religion to discriminate against workers, especially LGBTQ people and women. We applaud the Biden administration for taking critical steps toward ending taxpayer-funded discrimination.”