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The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has addressed the politically touchy subject of balancing religious liberties with non-discriminatory practices with a final rule that the Department hopes will find favor with both sides of the debate.
While the final rule stressed that faith-based organizations are eligible to participate in HUD programs and activities, it nonetheless prevents these organizations “from discriminating against beneficiaries or prospective beneficiaries on the basis of religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to attend or participate in a religious practice.” The rule also requires that if a current or potential beneficiary raises a complaint about the religious character of the organization, it becomes incumbent on the organization to “undertake reasonable efforts to identify and refer the beneficiary to an alternative provider to which the beneficiary has no such objection.”
The new rule is designed to formally implement President Obama’s Executive Order 13559, which focuses on the federal government’s relationship with faith-based and neighborhood organizations.
“These regulations build on widespread agreement that we can and should do more to protect the religious liberty of beneficiaries and provide greater clarity and transparency about applicable church-state rules,” said Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “These reforms will strengthen partnerships that serve people in need, and we commend the agencies for working together to issue these final regulations.”