Earlier this week The Daily Citizen reported on a proposed federal agency rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The rule, which has been opened up to public comment, would eliminate obstacles placed on faith-based entities wishing to partner with HHS in providing social services to needy people.
You can blame the Obama administration for singling out religious entities for unequal treatment.
That unequal treatment works like this: a faith-based relief agency, using a contract or grant from HHS, is required to provide notice to the people it is serving that the agency is religious in nature, and if the recipient objects to that, the relief agency would refer the recipient to another provider.
Do you see the problem with that? Of all the entities providing services with taxpayer funds administered by HHS, only religious ones have to wear a scarlet letter and act like they have something to apologize for.
The First Amendment prohibits the government from either favoring or disfavoring religion. There should be a level playing field for all social service entities to participate in meeting the needs of hurting people.
HHS is not the only agency removing the discriminatory language; it is one of nine agencies responding to President Trump’s call for federal agencies to respect the freedom of religion.
Focus on the Family posted the following statement on the official government website where the rule is explained and comments solicited:
Focus on the Family Comments on Proposed HHS Rule Creating Level Playing Field for Religious Entities
Proposed rule: RIN 0991-AC13
Docket ID #HHS-OS-2019-0012
Focus on the Family is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt global Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive. We believe that the purpose of life is to know and glorify God through an authentic relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. This purpose is lived out first within our own families and then extended, in love, to an increasingly broken world that desperately needs Him. Focus on the Family equips parents, children and spouses to thrive in an ever-changing, ever-more-complicated world.
From our own experience partnering with social service ministries that provide disaster relief, and from our general awareness of the great good that faith-based entities offer, we wholly support the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed rule RIN 0991-AC13 that removes the disparate treatment of such entities placed on them by a previous administration. Faith-based entities ought to be equal partners in the mission to help needy people, not second-class citizens who alone are required to notify potential recipients of government-funded social services that the provider has a religious identity the recipient might object to. Further, faith-based entities are also required to offer referrals to other providers if a recipient is somehow offended by the religious nature of the faith-based provider. No other providers are burdened with such extra requirements to participate in federal social service programs.
Equal treatment for religious charitable groups working in partnership with the federal government has a noble history beginning with the establishment of President George W. Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2001, and agency rules promulgated by that Administration. Modifications to that equal treatment rule made during President Obama’s Administration placed extra burdens on faith-based entities that imposed burdens at odds with the First Amendment, the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
This proposed rule follows naturally and logically from President Trump’s May 4, 2017 Executive Order 13798, which promoted free speech and religious liberty, and the Attorney General’s Memorandum on Religious Liberty dated October 26, 2017, which advised all Executive Departments and Agencies on how to comply with the president’s executive order in light of existing federal protections for religious freedom.
Focus on the Family unequivocally welcomes and supports the proposed rule and urges its adoption by HHS.
You can support religious freedom by posting your own comment here. You don’t have to write a lengthy statement; just let HHS know that you support the proposed rule because it levels the playing field for faith-based organizations to help needy people. It will only take you five minutes. You can multiply your efforts by posting this article on social media and inviting your friends to comment as well. Activism doesn’t get much easier than that!
Please note that the comment period ends on February 18, so don’t wait.