This week, as promised, the ACLJ submitted formal public comments and legal analyses on behalf of itself and over 75,000 of our members in support of important religious liberty protections proposed by eight federal agencies.
Last month we informed you that, pursuant to two Executive orders, the Trump Administration issued new rules across nine federal agencies to ensure that religious organizations and faith-based businesses are equally treated under the law. Further, the new rules remove unconstitutional forced referral and notice requirements that had been placed by the Obama Administration only on faith-based organizations.
Eight of the agencies opened up their public comment period on January 17, 2020, and we recently submitted our public comments to those agencies: Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, USAID, and Veterans Affairs. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) only recently opened its public comment period, and as such, the ACLJ will be submitting its public comment to HUD in April.
As we stated in our submitted comments, the ACLJ supports the full adoption of the proposed rules:
We believe the Rule should be implemented fully as the Department has proposed. The alternative would mean that religious organizations that currently, or in the future may, participate in Department programs would continue to be targeted and burdened unequally merely because of their faith-based nature. The Rule would serve to bring the Department’s implementation of its programs in-line with the requirements of Federal law, including the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The rule would also serve to further the ability of the Federal government to provide equal opportunity to those organizations that faithfully serve our American society through social welfare programs.
Faith-based and religious organizations play important and unique roles in American society, and
[a]side from protecting our first liberty, the Rule is necessary to implement because of the vast societal good that religious organizations foster throughout the country, promoting philanthropic generosity and civic involvement at the highest levels. Indeed, religious organizations should be encouraged to contract with the federal government, not turned away because of any outstanding uncertainties of their protections under the law. Although these protections are already enshrined in the Constitution, adequate enforcement of the equal treatment of faith-based organizations requires specific and applied clarity, which this proposed Rule provides. Robustly protecting religious freedom will further enable religious organizations to do what they do best, which is to help serve those in need. The ACLJ will continue to remain ever vigilant in ensuring that all religious organizations are protected under the law.
And indeed. we will remain vigilant to ensure that your voice is heard and that religious liberty is protected. We have long been advocating for these changes, and are greatly encouraged with the strides that the Trump Administration is taking to ensure that faith-based organizations are treated equally and fairly under the law – as is constitutionally required.
We gave you the opportunity to join with us as we filed these public comments, and many of you did. Thank you! Your voice is important, as every comment is taken into consideration by the agencies. Very often, thousands of people who oppose protections for faith-based organizations will submit comments in opposition of such rules.
In addition to the 75,000 of our members who signed on to our comment, over 7,000 wrote their own comment and submitted it to one of the worst offending agencies, HHS, directly.
Every one of you who submitted a comment or signed our petition is important, as this shows these agencies that there are thousands and thousands of people who do stand behind equal and constitutional treatment for faith-based organizations which often play critical roles in our communities and around the world.
If you haven’t had the chance yet to sign our petition, you can still do it today, and your voice will be added to the next public comment we file in April.
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