December 2017 Church & State - December 2017

HHS Department Pushes ‘Faith-Based’ Discrimination

  AU admin

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  has issued a formal request for information to help it figure out how to remove “barriers” it claims faith-based organi­zations face when seeking taxpayer funding.

Dena Sher, Americans United’s assistant legislative di­­-  r­ector, notes that this is another attempt by the Trump ad­min­istration to make it easier for taxpayer-funded organ­izations to use religion to discriminate.

“What HHS is really asking for, is how the agency needs to change its rules to allow religiously affiliated organiza­tions to discriminate with government funds, against who they hire and serve and in what services they provide,” Sher wrote in an Oct. 27 “Wall of Separation” blog post.

The Trump administration is following in the footsteps of the George W. Bush administration, which ordered a similar audit to identify all “existing barriers” it claimed faith-based organizations faced when they sought govern­ment funds to deliver social services.

Since no such barriers actually exist, Bush instead removed several church-state protections that had applied to government partnerships with faith-based organiza­tions. The Obama administration later reinstated some of these.

Sher emphasized the importance of faith-based organi­zations in American society, but reiterated that religi­ous freedom is not an excuse to discriminate.

“Effective government collaboration with these groups does not require the sanctioning of taxpayer-funded religious discrimination or sweeping exemptions that allow these groups to deny key services to certain populations,” she wrote.

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