WASHINGTON – On Monday, Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia issued both a directive and guidance to advance religious liberty protections. These actions bolster the Department’s on-going efforts to advance the principles set forth in President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order 13798, “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.”

“The directive and guidance issued today acknowledge the central role that religion and religious freedom play in civil society,” said Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia.  “The directive and guidance issued today send a clear message that the Department of Labor will continue to uphold religious liberty for America’s workforce, employees of the Department, and religious organizations.”

Secretarial Directive

The Department-wide Directive from Secretary Scalia instructs agency heads to incorporate and advance religious liberty principles in their daily operations. In part, the Directive instructs the agency heads of the Department of Labor to:

  • Ensure religious liberty protections for all Department employees, or applicants for employment, including reasonable religious accommodations.
  • Verify Department rules adhere to the First Amendment of the Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and other applicable Federal laws.
  • Assess consistency of new Departmental documents and guidance with the Attorney General’s Memorandum and Federal law.
  • Consider modifications to promote religious liberty protections, consistent with Federal law.
  • Ensure religious organizations are given the opportunity to compete equally with non-religious organizations for Federal financial assistance at the Federal and State levels.
  • Enforce all legal prohibitions against religious discrimination entrusted to the Department.
  • Respect the full scope of legal religious exemptions, including the ministerial exception.
  • Consult the Department’s Centers for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, Solicitor’s Office, and relevant agencies on policy modifications and grant programs to promote religious liberty protections.

Guidance on Federal Grants and Executive Order 13798

New Department-wide guidance on grant policies will help the public better understand religious liberty protections for grant applicants and recipients. 

On May 9, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13798, which instructed that “all executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall, to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech.” The Order also directed the Attorney General to issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law to guide all agencies. The Attorney General issued such guidance in a memorandum to all executive departments on October 6, 2017. Subsequently, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued its own guidance on January 16, 2020, directing all grant administering agencies “within 120 days of the date of this Memorandum… [to] publish policies detailing how they will administer Federal grants in compliance with E.O. 13798, the Attorney General’s memorandum, and this Memorandum.”

In compliance with the Executive Order, the Attorney General’s Memo, and the OMB Directive, the Department of Labor today issued new Department-wide guidance on grant policies to improve public awareness and clarity about the Department’s protections for religious liberty interests in grant administration. The Guidance works to improve the ability of nonprofit and faith-based organizations to defend their rights and participate in DOL programs. The Guidance also gives more certainty to nonprofit and faith-based organizations concerning what guarantees the Department’s regulations give grantees to preserve their religious character.

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