EXCLUSIVE: Rubio Introduces Bill to Ensure Religious Organizations Operate on Same Footing As Secular Ones
By Rebecca Downs
On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio will introduce a bill to ensure that that faith-based organizations can apply for and operate on equal footing with secular organizations when it comes to federally-funded social service programs. Townhall received an exclusive about the legislation to be introduced, which is known as the Loosing Innovation through Fair Treatment in National Grantmaking in Local Communities Act.
A one-pager from Sen. Rubio's office explains how faith-based organizations "contribute nearly $1.2 trillion of socio-economic value to the United States economy, with billions directly benefiting low-income families," which federal policymakers have long acknowledged, as well as ensured that they can "apply for and administer federally-funded social services."
Necessitating the legislation is that such rules for the governing process, known as the "charitable choice" or "equal participation" rules, often change from administration to administration. Under Rubio's bill, these protections would be codified so that they are enshrined in federal law rather than having to depend on the whims of each changing administration.
The Biden administration is currently reviewing rules, but has not put out new ones yet.
Further, the bill would also "take new steps to protect religious exercise and empower religious organizations to participate fully in federally-funded social services without fear of reprisal or burdensome restrictions on the basis of their beliefs."
An in-depth list of what the bill would do seems to emphasize a point that these organizations are able to maintain their religious identity while providing services. For instance, the bill would:
• Ensure that religious organizations are eligible to apply for, and provide, federal social services on the same basis as non-religious organizations;
• Ensure that religious organizations that receive federal funds maintain their independence and freedom to retain their name, structure, and religious practices;
• Clarify that religious providers will not be prohibited from providing religious services and using religious language at the same time and location as federally-funded services;
• Subject to certain exemptions and accommodations for religious organizations, prohibit discrimination against a program participant on the basis of religion or religious belief, or lack thereof, in the provision of federally-funded social services;
• To preserve beneficiary choice and organizations’ exercise of their faith, require that the federal, state, or local government refer a participant to another provider if the participant has an objection to the nature or character of the private organization providing the service;
• Clarify that religious exemptions in federal law regarding an organization’s hiring decisions and other protections of religious belief and practice continue to apply when a religious organization takes federal money; and
• Create a private right of action for religious organizations to sue if its rights under this bill are violated.
The introduction of this bill comes as pro-life pregnancy centers, many of which are faith-based have not only been the target of vandalism and violence, but as Democrats in office, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have looked to attack these centers through legislation.
Pregnancy centers applying for grants to offer federally-funded healthcare support services would be among those protected from discrimination under Sen. Rubio's bill.
The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Tim Scott (R-SC), James Lankford (R-OK), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Rick Scott (R-FL).
It's also being supported by a number of organizations, including CatholicVote, Heritage Action, Family Research Council, First Liberty, and Faith and Freedom Coalition.