The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday issued a proposed rule allowing faith-based health and social service organizations to refrain from informing clients about services not offered due to religious reasons.
In the accompanying press release, HHS stated that the rule’s purpose is to ensure “religious and non-religious organizations are treated equally in HHS-supported programs.”
Former president Barack Obama had issued an executive order in 2010 requiring faith-based healthcare and social service providers to disclose religious reasoning when declining services (via posted notices). Additionally, faith-based organizations had to offer clients referrals to alternative providers if the clients objected to these religious policies. HHS’s regulations soon followed to implement the order.
The Trump administration argues that such requires is discriminatory against faith-based providers. HHS Secretary Alex Azar stated, the administration “is taking historic action to protect religious social service providers from discrimination in federal regulations.”
The new proposed rule by HHS would eliminate faith-based providers’ requirement of posting their unavailable services, as well end their obligation to refer clients to alternative providers. The lack of mandating referrals aligns with the Department’s other policies regarding referrals for women’s health services.
Additionally, the proposed rule acquiesces with US Attorney General William Barr’s guidance outlining federal law protections for religious organizations. On the same day HHS published the proposed rule, other federal agencies (Department of Education, etc.) proposed rules similarly removing administration requirements on religious organizations.