March 14, 2023
On March 14, EPPC scholars Rachel N. Morrison and Eric Kniffin submitted a public comment opposing a proposed rule by nine different agencies that would modify regulations for faith-based organizations partnering with federally-funded social service programs across the nine agencies.
The rule, titled “Partnerships With Faith-Based and Neighborhood Organizations,” would modify regulations for the Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Agriculture, Agency for International Development, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Health and Human Services.
Citing the long history in our nation of faith-based organizations providing vital services to those in need, the EPPC scholars write in their comment:
President Biden recognized that faith-based organizations are essential to the delivery of services in our nation’s neighborhoods and emphasized the importance of strengthening the ability of such organizations to deliver services in partnership with the federal government while adhering to all applicable law. Yet without any demonstrated need, the proposed rule would gut religious accommodation protections for faith-based organizations partnering with the agencies to serve beneficiaries. The proposed rule is contrary to law and blatantly ignores constitutional and statutory religious protections. Most egregiously, the agencies ignore the plain text of Title VII’s religious organization exemption and misstate or ignore relevant case law. The agencies also fail to take adequate notice of recent Supreme Court First Amendment government funding decisions. To the extent they acknowledge the First Amendment’s “nondiscrimination rule” rule, they fail to apply it consistently across their proposed regulations. In short, the proposed rule is a solution in search of a problem, making it arbitrary and capricious.
The scholars call on the agencies to withdraw the proposed rule and retain the existing regulations that more fully recognize religious protections for faith-based organizations partnering with the agencies.
Others, including various religious organizations and legal and policy experts, also submitted comments opposing the proposed rule.
About the EPPC comment signers:
Rachel N. Morrison, J.D., is an EPPC Fellow, director of EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project, and former attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Eric Kniffin, J.D., is an EPPC Fellow, member of the HHS Accountability Project, and a former attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
Other organizations and experts submitting comments on the proposed rule include:
- American Association of Christian Schools
- Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
- First Liberty Institute
- The Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal Studies
- Religious Liberty Legal Scholar
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals, Christian Legal Society, Thomas More Society, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities