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Trump aims to ‘even playing field’ for faith-based groups seeking grants
WASHINGTON (CNS) — President Donald Trump said Jan. 16 his administration is issuing nine proposed rules to ensure the nation’s faith-based service providers and organizations are not discriminated against by federal agencies’ regulations or in their grant-making processes because of religion.
The agencies affected include Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Labor, Agriculture, Education, Justice, Homeland Security, and International Development.
Trump said his administration “is committed to ensuring religious organizations can compete on a level playing field for funding, without discrimination.”
“The proposed rules would eliminate burdensome Obama-era requirements that unfairly imposed unique regulatory burdens only on religious organizations,” he said.
Among those requirements faith-based service providers have had to give notice they are religiously affiliated and must make available a list of alternative secular service providers.
He made the comments on the proposed rules during an Oval Office event on National Religious Freedom Day after he announced new guidance on prayer in public schools.
Trump said the Office of Management and Budget also was releasing a memo requiring federal agencies to ensure the grant-making practices of state recipients of federal funding comply with the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.
The federal agencies have 120 days to comply and provide evidence of updating their policies.
Supporters of the Trump administration’s proposed rules cite the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer in 2017. The justices ruled Missouri had wrongly determined the church as a religious entity could not receive public funds for a playground used by students no matter their religion.
“Our nation has a proud heritage of religious freedom, and of religious institutions providing care and support to the poor and needy,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said in a statement about Trump’s proposed rules. Under these, he added, “religious organizations that receive federal grants may provide aid to the needy without posting a warning label regarding their faith.”