WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – The Biden Department of Labor (DOL) announced Monday it is moving to roll back a Trump-era regulation that broadened the definition of federal contractors who could claim religious exemptions to federal hiring regulations that interfered with their ability to hire personnel aligned with their religious beliefs.
Last December, the Labor Department under outgoing President Donald Trump announced a rule making clear that faith-based organizations that contract with the federal government retain the right to only hire individuals who share that organization’s faith, and that they can terminate employees on the basis of whether they abide by or reject the tenets of that faith.
That rule, which took effect January 8, 2021, broadened the existing definition of religious employers to encompass those that “hold themselves out to the public as carrying out a religious purpose.” It was meant to address an Obama-era rule adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the criteria against which employers contracting with the federal government could not “discriminate.”
“This rule will help ensure that religious organizations can fully participate in federal procurement consistent with the First Amendment and other applicable federal laws,” Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs director Craig Leen said at the time. But the Biden administration wants to undo one of the order’s key elements.
“The final rule that took effect on Jan. 8, 2021 departed from OFCCP’s long-standing policy and practice of applying Title VII principles and case law to interpret the exemption,” reads an announcement from the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. “OFCCP’s proposed rescission would preserve EO 11246’s religious exemption which would still be available to qualifying contractors. The proposed rescission would ensure that the EO 11246 religious exemption is applied consistent with principles and case law interpreting the Title VII religious exemption.”
OFCCP director Jenny Yang insists that the change “would simply return to our policy and practice of considering the facts of each case and applying Title VII principles and case law and other applicable law,” and therefore continue to “safeguard principles of religious freedom.” But Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) says otherwise.
“This is a direct attack on every employer who dares to follow their faith,” Foxx responded Monday. “The Biden administration practices its own First Amendment rights daily, but it is eagerly stripping that God-given protection away from everyday Americans. President Trump’s rule benefitted everyone, from the taxpayers who rely on the necessary goods and services provided by faith-based organizations to the employees and job creators who do not have to deny their religion to compete for federal contracts. Today’s proposed rule only benefits left-wing special interests.”
President Joe Biden, who claims to be Catholic despite his support for abortion on demand, has shown a marked hostility to invocations of religious exemptions to his desired policies. On October 29, his administration refused to say whether it will comply with a federal judge’s order not to fire military members and civilian federal employees seeking religious exemptions from mandatory COVID-19 vaccination at least until their case is fully adjudicated.