Fighting Discrimination

Americans United Applauds Biden Administration For Ending Trump’s Sweeping Expansion Of Religious Exemption For Federal Contractors

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Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser issued the following statement in response to the Biden administration today rescinding the Trump Department of Labor rule that expanded a religious exemption that allows federal contractors to discriminate:

“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. 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.

“Americans United has worked tirelessly to bring an end to Trump-administration policies that sought to transform religious freedom from a shield that protects people into a sword to harm others. We’re pleased that the Biden administration has proposed to roll back many harmful Trump-era regulations that deal with birth control access, denial of medical care, and religious freedom protections for people who rely on government-funded services. While there is more work to be done, these are important steps on the path toward a country that promises the freedom and equality that come with church-state separation.”

Trump Department Of Labor Rule Expanded George W. Bush-Era Policy

The Trump Department of Labor rule expanded a George W. Bush-era policy that permits 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 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) 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.­­­

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

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Liz Hayes
Associate Vice President of Communications
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