Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a joint Final Rule with eight Federal Departments—the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs—to implement President Trump’s Executive Order 13831 on the Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative. The Final Rule ensures equal treatment for faith-based organizations in USAID-funded programs, consistent with the Constitution and other Federal law. It also clarifies that religious organizations do not lose their legal protections and rights, such as the right to accommodations and conscience protections under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and other Federal laws, just because they participate in Federal programs and activities.
The Final Rule incorporates the existing regulations that govern the participation of religious organizations in USAID’s foreign-assistance programs, including provisions that bar providers from discriminating against beneficiaries based on religion and that require that organizations separate any religious activities in time or location from activities directly funded with Federal money.
The Final Rule responds to Executive Order 13831, issued in May 2018. USAID and the Departments involved worked collaboratively to draft Notices of Proposed Rulemaking that was published or delivered to Congress in January 2020. The eight Departments and USAID then received over 95,000 public comments from a range of interested parties, including Members of Congress; State and local governments, agencies, and officials; faith-based service-providers and umbrella organizations; advocacy organizations; and individuals. The Departments and USAID considered those comments, modified the regulations to address concerns raised; and drafted responses, which the Final Rule includes.