Nine Federal Agencies Propose Undoing Obama-Era Executive Order On Grants To Religious Organizations

NBC News reports:

President Donald Trump on Thursday announced a series of new rules and guidance memos designed to push federal funds to religious organizations and advance prayer in public schools. The guidance comes amid a formal White House declaration recognizing Jan.16 as Religious Freedom Day.

In a reversal of Obama-era requirements that tightly restricted religious organizations receiving taxpayer money, almost a dozen federal agencies are rolling out proposals meant to ease those restrictions on religious groups, including schools and churches.

The Washington Post reports:

Nine federal agencies, including the Education Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department, are proposing rules that would reduce requirements for religious organizations. The rules would lift an Obama-era executive order that compelled religious organizations to tell the people they serve that they can receive the same service from a secular provider.

The Education Department plans to issue guidance that will require local school districts to certify that they have no rules or regulations that conflict with students’ right to pray at school. It will also require states to notify the Education Department if there are complaints against a school system regarding the right to pray. The department does not have similar reporting requirements for states when a school district is accused of other types of discrimination.

NPR reports:

In an exclusive interview with NPR, White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council Joe Grogan said existing provisions to protect school prayer established under the No Child Left Behind law have been eroded over time with a hostility to religion and religious institutions.

“We’re trying across the board to invite religious institutions and people of faith back into the public square and say, ‘Look, your views are just as valid as anybody else’s,’ ” Grogan said. ” ‘And, by the way, they’re protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.’ “

Just in from hate group leader Tony Perkins:

President Trump and his administration are taking on the bullies that have been intimidating school officials and bullying students with their often baseless lawsuits. No longer will students have to stand alone in their defense of their religious freedom as these anti-faith organizations seek to rob students in public schools of any form of religious expression. He is also stepping up to protect religious organizations from government discrimination. This is a president who is putting freedom back in Religious Freedom Day.

For years, we’ve watched secularists pressure school administrators into telling students that they can’t pray, read their Bibles, or talk about their faith in class. Some school officials are willing participants in the secularists’ intimidation campaign while others fear the lack of funding to fight threatened lawsuits.

Now the tables are turned. The onus is now on states to certify that they are compliant with U.S. Department of Education guidelines which protect students’ religious freedom. If schools fail to protect religious freedom, they now run the risk of losing federal funding.

The Washington Examiner reports:

Camilla B. Taylor, an attorney with the LGBTQ civil rights group Lambda Legal, said the changes would affect huge swaths of government contracts. She said that when people they think of religious groups and social services, they “think a neighborhood soup kitchen in a basement”

“But we are talking about government grants to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. And increasingly, they are excluding members of the public from receiving services based on who they are,” Taylor said.

The Rev. Stan J. Sloan, chief executive of Family Equality, which supports same-sex families, said “once again, the Trump administration is putting the personal beliefs of taxpayer-funded service providers above the needs of vulnerable children, families and people they serve.”