VA announces proposed rule regarding equal treatment of faith-based organizations in VA-supported social service programs
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposed a rule, Jan. 16, that would implement President Trump’s, May 3, 2018, Executive Order (EO) establishing a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, to remove regulatory barriers allowing religious and non-religious organizations equal treatment in VA-supported social service programs.
The proposed rule ensures VA-supported social service programs are implemented in a manner consistent with the Constitution and other applicable federal law.
Under current regulations governing these programs, religious providers of social services — but not other providers of social services — must make referrals under certain circumstances and must post notices regarding this referral procedure. VA’s proposed rule would eliminate religious providers from this requirement.
The current hinderances were not required by any applicable law, and because they were imposed only on religious social service providers, they are in tension with recent Supreme Court precedent regarding nondiscrimination against religious organizations. The proposed rule will foreclose other unequal treatment of religious organizations by ensuring they are not required to provide assurances or notices that are not required of secular organizations.
By compelling religious organizations, but not secular organizations, to post special notices and make referrals, the alternative-provider requirements unequally placed impediments on religious organizations and cast unwarranted suspicion on them
Additionally, the proposed rule will clarify that religious organizations may apply for awards on the same basis as any other organization and that when VA selects award recipients, VA will not discriminate based on an organization’s religious character. The proposed rule further clarifies that religious organizations participating in VA-supported social service programs retain their independence from the government and may continue to carry out their missions consistent with religious freedom protections in federal law, under the First Amendment.
The proposed rule incorporates the Attorney General’s 2017 Memorandum for All Executive Departments and Agencies, Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty. That memorandum was issued pursuant to President Trump’s, May 4, 2017, Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, which guides all federal administrative agencies and executive departments in complying with federal law.
“Protecting religious liberty is a key part of ensuring Veterans, families and potential partners — no matter their religious beliefs — feel welcome to work with and seek services from VA,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “These important changes will help us accomplish these important goals.”
*******Well "alrighty then" but when you read the Executive Order on the Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative mentioned in the first part of this, you will be scratching your head too. Apparently, all these things were already done under "executive orders" from previous Presidents.
Sec. 2. Amendments to Executive Orders.
(a) Executive Order 13198 of January 29, 2001 (Agency Responsibilities With Respect to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives)
Executive Order 13279 of December 12, 2002 (Equal Protection of the Laws for Faith-Based and Community Organizations), as amended by Executive Order 13559 of November 17, 2010 (Fundamental Principles and Policymaking Criteria for Partnerships with Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Organizations)
Executive Order 13280 of December 12, 2002 (Responsibilities of the Department of Agriculture and the Agency for International Development With Respect to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives)
Executive Order 13342 of June 1, 2004 (Responsibilities of the Departments of Commerce and Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration with Respect to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives)
Executive Order 13397 of March 7, 2006 (Responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security With Respect to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives), are hereby amended by:
(i) substituting “White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative” for “White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives” each time it appears in those orders;
(ii) substituting “White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative” for “White House OFBCI” each time it appears in those orders;
(iii) substituting “Centers for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives” for “Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives” each time it appears in those orders; and
(iv) substituting “White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative” for “Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships” each time it appears in those orders.
(b) Executive Order 13279, as amended, is further amended by striking section 2(h) and redesignating sections 2(i) and 2(j) as sections 2(h) and 2(i), respectively.
The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.