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    POLITICS | Trump Administration ends anti-religious liberty rules: Election 2020 (259 Days)



    By Michael Hernandez 

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Trump Administration is releasing today new rules and regulations impacting eight different federal agencies that end the Obama-era anti-religious liberty rules that in effect were discriminatory against individuals and faith-based organizations receiving federal funds.

    The eight federal agencies include:  the Department of Justice; Health and Human Services; Departments of Education; Agriculture; Labor; Homeland Security; USAID; and Veteran Affairs that required religious organizations and faith-based businesses to jump through extra hoops because of their faith.  Rules and regulations regarding a ninth federal agency—Housing Urban Development—will go in effect in April.

    A petition to “End Unequal Treatment of Religious Organizations and Faith-Based Businesses and Defend Religious Liberty” circulated by the American Center for Law and Justice received 75,226 signatures with over 3,000 individuals filing their own comments (public comments ending today) to the eight agencies going through the rule changes protecting religious liberty.

    “Religious organizations are treated unequally.  They’re been forced to post disclaimers and referrals to non-religious entities (similarly to the forced speech disclosures we defeated at the Supreme Court for pro-life pregnancy centers),” said the ACLJ petition.  “Faith-based and religious organizations do not deserve to be treated as second-class citizens.  They shouldn’t be forced to submit to a separate set of rules because of their faith.”

    According to the ACLJ, “recent regulatory actions have discriminatively placed additional burdens on faith-based organization that participate in various Department programs.  These additional requirements violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and compromise the effectiveness of the programs.

    “The proposed Rule would reverse these discriminative requirements and would, in fact, ensure that religious entities are evaluated by the same standards as their non-religious counterparts.”

    The Rule Changes adopted through President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order 13798 and 13831 which established the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative are consistent with federal law, including the First Amendment to the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which promotes Free Speech and Religious Liberty.

    The White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative follows on the heels of Executive Orders 13199 and 13279 signed into law by President George W. Bush shortly after taking office in 2001.   These Executive Orders were to ensure that “private and charitable groups, including religious ones…have the fullest opportunity permitted by law to compete on a level playing field” in the delivery of social services.  

    However, shortly after taking office, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13498 which amended Executive Order 13199 and Executive Order 13559

    which made changes to Executive Order 13279 which added a provision requiring that any religious social service provider refer potential beneficiaries to an alternative provider as well.  For example, a women receiving health services at a pre-birth faith-based clinic would also have to receive information about an abortion provider such as Planned Parenthood during their clinic visit. This practice was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and now federal rules and regulations have been changed as well, effective today; through President Trump’s Executive Order.


    Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He has worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].

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