Committee Leaders Applaud Biden for Combatting Taxpayer-Funded Religious Discrimination
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Oversight and Accountability Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Mark Takano (CA-39), and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (NY-12) applauded the Biden-Harris administration’s proposed rules for nine federal agencies—including the Departments of Education (ED), Agriculture (USDA), Justice (DOJ), Labor (DOL), Veterans Affairs (VA), and Health and Human Services (HHS)—that would restore key civil rights protections for beneficiaries and employees of federally funded social service programs.
“As Ranking Members of House Committees with legislative and oversight jurisdiction over the programs and policies impacted by the Proposed Rule, we support the Biden Administration’s effort to restore important civil rights protections for social service program participants while clarifying the rights and obligations of faith-based providers,” the Members wrote.
“In conclusion, the social safety net in this country has both provided critical services to millions of individuals for over 100 years and been a source of employment in local communities. To ensure that individuals, especially historically underserved individuals and those who have historically been subject to discrimination, can have full access to federally funded social services and employment, free from discrimination, the Administration should endeavor to achieve a careful balance between recognizing the religious liberty rights of faith-based providers while also strengthening and enforcing the civil rights protections of program participants and employees.”
The Biden-Harris administration’s proposed rules would rescind a sweeping set of rules, promulgated by the Trump administration in 2020, that allowed beneficiaries and workers of federally funded social service programs to be subjected to religious discrimination and coercion. For example, the Trump-era rules:
- Permitted faith-based providers receiving vouchers to, for the first time in history, require beneficiaries to attend religious activities;
- Stripped the requirement of beneficiaries to be notified of their right to be free from religious coercion and discrimination; and,
- Eliminated the requirement for beneficiaries who object to a provider’s religious character to have access to an alternative provider.
In the letter, the Members urged the Departments to not only rescind the Trump-era rules but also take additional steps to ensure that beneficiaries and workers of programs that receive federal funding are not subjected to discrimination.
In the 117th Congress, then-Chairman Scott and Rep. Raskin led Members—including Rep. Takano and Rep. Nadler—in introducing the Do No Harm Act to address the increasing use of religious freedom laws to undermine civil rights protections. The legislation would restore the original purpose of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to provide protections for religious exercise while ensuring that RFRA is not used to erode civil rights under the guise of religious freedom.