U.S. Government Guidelines on Funding of Faith Groups Come Into Effect

Regulations are based on recommendations made by a council that included leaders of American Jewish groups.

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U.S. President Barack Obama claps as he joins a classroom of singing children after his remarks on Jewish American History Month at the Adas Israel Congregation synagogue in Washington May 22, 2015.Credit: Reuters

Six years after a White House religious advisory panel grappled with how the government should fund faith groups, its recommendations are being implemented.

The Orthodox Union on March 31 praised the Obama administration for issuing regulations based on recommendations made in 2010 by its Faith-Based Advisory Council, which included three leaders of Jewish groups among its 25 members.

The regulations, finalized last week by nine government agencies, prohibit faith-based groups receiving government funds from discriminating against beneficiaries based on religion or refusal to participate in a religious activity, and to notify beneficiaries that such a ban is in place.

They also “make clear that faith-based organizations are eligible to participate in federally funded social service programs on the same basis as any other private organization,” said the release by the Orthodox Union.

The regulations ensure “that faith-based organizations can partner with the government to deliver programs and services to our communities – and receive federal funds to do so – without sacrificing their religious character,” said Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s Washington director.

Diament, along with Rabbi David Saperstein, who headed the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center at the time, and Nancy Ratzan, then the president of the National Council of Jewish Women, were the faith-based council’s three Jewish members. A number of other Jewish officials joined task forces that advised the main council.