Religious freedom and traditional values groups are applauding an announcement out of Washington, DC, on Thursday that benefits faith-based groups.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced yesterday a proposed rule for equal treatment of faith-based organizations in HHS-supported social service programs. HHS was one of nine Cabinet departments ordered, by President Donald Trump, to remove "regulatory burdens" on religious organizations participating in federal programs by eliminating a requirement that they refer people to alternative providers upon request.
"This is a great, new decision that is coming out of the Trump administration with protecting religious freedom – and it's a good time for this to be announced because it's on Religious Freedom Day (Thursday, January 16, 2020) that Health and Human Services has proposed this new rule," Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said on Thursday.
"It's implementing President Trump's original executive order regarding, promoting religious freedom in all the various agencies and departments," he continues. "So, what it will do is remove regulatory burdens on religious organizations and ensure [they] are treated fairly [and] that they don't get discriminated against because of their faith."
Up to now, Staver says, faith-based organizations have been discriminated against, and sometimes they've had to "literally eviscerate their core mission and message" in order to provide these same social service programs.
Katherine Beck Johnson, research fellow for legal and policy studies at Family Research Council (FRC), says her organization is thankful for what HHS has been doing of late.
"Under the Obama regulation, they were required to make referrals for alternate service providers," she explains. "So, for instance, they would have to say, 'We're Christian, we won't refer to X, Y, or Z because of our faith, so here's a group that will' – and yet, secular organizations were not required to say 'We're secular, here's a Christian organization.'"
The proposed rule will go through a public comment period. If and when the rule is finalized and made permanent, lawsuits are expected.
The ACLU tweeted that the new regulations for HHS and other federal agencies will make it more difficult to access critical social services, just because someone is LGBTQ or a different faith.
"Whether they'll file suit, I don't know," Staver says of the ACLU. "There's no basis to do it – but there's been no basis to file a lot of other previous lawsuits as well."
And regarding school prayer …
At the same time HHS made its announcement, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education announced a proposed rule that will provide guidance on legal protections for prayer and other religious expression in public schools. Staver explains the guidance is not creating new law, rather clarifying existing law.
"Often times, religious freedom and other constitutional rights are threatened because people don't know what they are," he tells OneNewsNow. "People in authority ultimately make wrong decisions – and that's why I'm very pleased that the Trump administration and the Department of Justice … will be issuing this guidance."
The Liberty Counsel founder says this guidance is what his firm would use and send to public schools whenever there are constitutional violations.
"Frankly, these guidance proposals will go a long way to prevent litigation," he continues. "So, this is really a continual form of national education on the constitutional rights that we currently enjoy."
Still, says Staver, Americans need to be constantly educated and reminded about those rights. "And it's a good idea to put this down in a concise manner so people can understand what these rights are and how they can be and should be exercised," he concludes.