The Biden administration announced Nov. 8 that it is rescinding a rule from the Trump administration that expanded a religious exemption that allows federal contractors to discriminate.
Americans United welcomed the change, asserting that the Trump-era rule went too far.
“We applaud the Biden administration for rescinding this harmful Trump-era policy, which allowed for-profit federal contractors to use government dollars to discriminate against workers in the name of religion,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. “The Trump rule made it easier for federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities and the nonreligious.
“Our nation promises everyone the freedom to believe as they want, but our laws cannot allow anyone to use their religious beliefs to harm others,” Laser continued. “No one should be turned away from a government-funded job because they can’t meet a religious test. Rescinding this rule is an important step toward restoring religious freedom as a shield and not a license for government contractors to force their employees to live by their beliefs.”
The Trump rule expanded a George W. Bush-era policy that permits faith-based federal contractors to discriminate in hiring by preferring 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 rule’s preamble also asserted that a federal law from 1993, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, would allow employers to discriminate in employment beyond religion, including based on other protected characteristics such as sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.