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HUD: Final rule on religious liberty protections

WASHINGTON – April 1, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a final rule on religious liberty protections for beneficiaries of its programs and activities. HUD says it also ensures that faith-based providers can compete for government funds on the same basis as any other private organization.
One example: A faith-based organization that receives HUD funding for child care must notify each child’s beneficiaries in writing that they cannot be discriminated against based on religion or required to participate in privately funded religious activities offered separately; and they may request an alternative provider if they object to the religious character of the organization. At the same time, HUD says all decisions about federal assistance will be based solely on merit without regard to an organization’s religious character.
“These new regulations strengthen religious liberty protections for beneficiaries across HUD programs and help eligible faith-based applicants to compete for HUD funding on an equal footing,” says HUD Secretary Julián Castro.
HUD’s final regulations
Require that all decisions about federal financial assistance awards are based solely on merit, without regard to an organization’s religious character or affiliation or lack thereof, and are free from political interference or the appearance of interference.
Make clear that faith-based organizations are eligible to participate in HUD programs and activities on the same basis as any other organization.
Clarify what activities can and cannot be supported via direct federal financial assistance by replacing the term “inherently religious activities” with “explicitly religious activities,” and providing examples of behaviors that are banned.
Prohibit organizations that receive federal financial assistance under HUD from discriminating against 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” when providing services.
Require faith-based organizations with direct federal financial assistance to provide written notice of the protections it offers.
Specifically, an organization must notify beneficiaries in writing that:
It may not discriminate based on religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to attend or participate in a religious practice.
It may not require a beneficiary to attend or participate in any explicitly religious activities that are offered by the organization, and any participation by the beneficiaries in those activities must be purely voluntary.
Privately funded religious activities must be held at a different time or in a different location.
If a beneficiary objects to the organization’s religious character, it will undertake reasonable efforts to identify and refer the beneficiary to an alternative provider.
A beneficiary or prospective beneficiary may report violations to the Federal agency or intermediary administering the program.
The regulations become effective on April 4, 2016 – 30 days after publication in the Federal Register – and recipients will have 90 days to comply with the final regulations.
© 2016 Florida Realtors®
Source: Florida Realtors Feed

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