White HouseWritten By Don Byrd

Today the White House announced rule proposals from nine federal agencies that address issues related to the government’s partnerships with faith-based and community organizations. Among other things, the proposed rules emphasize that faith-based organizations that receive federal funds must keep separate “in time or location” its religious activities from federally funded activities.

Melissa Rogers, the executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (and a former Baptist Joint Committee General Counsel), explains further in a blog post today announcing the proposed rules:

For example, if a faith-based provider offers a Bible study as well as a federally supported job training program, the Bible study must be privately funded and separated in time or location from the job training program. 

These proposals didn’t come out of the blue. In fact, they are the result of a long process. You may recall President Obama’s original Faith-Based Advisory Council, which issued recommendations for reforms that culminated in a 2010 Executive Order. Today’s proposals are the next step for agencies to codify exactly how they will achieve the goals of that Order.

Today, Baptist Joint Committee General Counsel Holly Hollman said the following about the release of these proposed rules:

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty welcomes this important step toward implementing reforms in government partnerships with faith-based groups. We appreciate the hard work of the agencies that is aimed at clarifying and strengthening protections for religious liberty, consistent with the executive order. The proposed regulations will increase the understanding of the rights and responsibilities of both service providers and beneficiaries. We look forward to reviewing the proposed regulations and submitting comments as needed.

According to the White House, interested parties are encouraged to submit comments on the proposals during the next 60 days. After comments have been received and analyzed, the final rules will be issued.

You can find links to the proposed rules from all nine agencies in Rogers’ White House blog post. The agencies are the Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Agency for International Development.

If you want to know more about the earlier Executive Order, check out Hollman’s 2010 column for The Huffington Post. For more on today’s release, check out this press release from Americans United.