White HouseWritten by Don Byrd

The White House announced that nine federal agencies have published final rules regarding federally funded social service providers. The rules are the culmination of several years of work, beginning with President Obama’s faith-based advisory council. Most importantly, they clarify the rights of beneficiaries of those programs to be free of religious coercion, and require service providers to keep separate their explicitly religious activities from their federally funded activities.

Melissa Rogers, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and former BJC General Counsel, explains in a blog post for the White House. Here is an excerpt:

Specifically, an organization that receives direct Federal financial assistance is required to give notice to beneficiaries that-

  1. The organization may not discriminate against a beneficiary based on religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to attend or participate in a religious practice;
  2. The organization may not require a beneficiary to attend or participate in any explicitly religious activities that are offered by the organization, and any participation by the beneficiaries in those activities must be purely voluntary;
  3. The organization must separate in time or location any privately funded explicitly religious activities from activities supported by direct Federal financial assistance;
  4. If a beneficiary or prospective beneficiary objects to the religious character of the organization, the organization will undertake reasonable efforts to identify and refer the beneficiary to an alternative provider to which the beneficiary does not object; and
  5. A beneficiary or prospective beneficiary may report violations of these protections, including any denials of services or benefits, to the Federal agency or intermediary administering the program.

Read more detail from the Federal Register here.