Written by Don Byrd

Former BJC General Counsel Melissa Rogers knows a thing or two about partnerships between the federal government and religious organizations that provide social services. During the Obama administrations, Rogers chaired the President’s Faith Advisory Council, which under her leadership developed a set of recommendations for strengthening the role of faith-based organizations in providing benefits funded by the government, while safeguarding the religious liberty of the beneficiaries. She later directed the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She probably understands better than anyone not only the importance of the regulations put in place by that office but also the meticulous, inclusive and lengthy process that went into crafting such common-ground solutions.

In a column for The Washington Post, Rogers takes issue with several provisions of an executive order signed last week by President Trump which amended elements of that office. Among other things, the order strikes regulations designed to protect beneficiaries of government services provided by faith-based organizations.

Here is an excerpt from her column:

The order Trump signed in early May eliminates the [requirement that beneficiaries of federally funded social services should be referred to an alternative service provider if they object to the religious character of their service provider.] Trump’s order also strikes the requirement that beneficiaries receive written notice of protections for their religious liberty.

Removing religious liberty protections in the name of religious freedom taints the cause. Honoring freedom for faith-based providers, while taking it away from people receiving services, is wrong. Breaking the long-standing pattern of respect for common-ground consultations is shortsighted. Undermining bipartisan support for effective partnerships that serve people in need is inexcusable. One way or another, those who value religious liberty and social service partnerships must fix these mistakes.

BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler issued a statement about President Trump’s executive order, reminding that “details matter.” Some of the details governing faith-based partnerships with government took years to put in place and, as Rogers described, were carefully crafted to provide a delicate balance between the constitutionally protected interests at stake. Removing one side of that balanced approach may have been undertaken “in the name of religious liberty,” she added, but “actually dealt religious liberty a blow.”

Indeed. Read the whole thing.