Christian Leaders Praise Department of Labor’s New Rule to Protect Religious Liberty

A Southern Baptist entity head and lawmaker have applauded a newly proposed rule to protect the rights of faith-based organizations that contract with the federal government.

The Department of Labor (DOL) announced the proposal Aug. 14, saying the rule guarantees “conscience and religious freedom are given the broadest protection permitted by law.” The regulation clarifies churches and other religious organizations that act as federal contractors may hire and fire based on their sincerely held beliefs without fear of being penalized by the government.

Patrick Pizzella, acting secretary of labor, said in a written statement, “As people of faith with deeply held religious beliefs are making decisions on whether to participate in federal contracting, they deserve clear understanding of their obligations and protections under the law.”

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore expressed gratitude that the Department of Labor “is showing a proper concern for protecting religious freedom.”

“Regulations like these matter for the same reasons the Trinity Lutheran Supreme Court decision matters,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in referencing a 2017 opinion that granted churches the freedom to participate in government programs with secular purposes.

“We don’t want a state taking it upon itself to judge theology or to privilege some religious beliefs over others,” Moore said in written comments. “The same First Amendment principles ought to apply to federal contracting.”

U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., called the rule an “important clarification.”

“Faith based-entities provide vital work in our communities and much of their work is targeted towards helping the most vulnerable in our society,” said Lankford, a Southern Baptist, in a written release. He thanked the Trump administration for the clarification “to ensure faith-based entities, with sincerely held religious beliefs, have the ability to hire people that share their faith mission and carry out their work consistent with that faith mission even if they are awarded a federal contract.”

The proposed regulation is based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act and its 1972 modification, previous executive orders and recent Supreme Court opinions related to religious freedom, according to the rule.

The proposed regulation seeks to clarify that the religious exemption in a 1965 executive order from President Johnson “covers not just churches but employers that are organized for a religious purpose, hold themselves out to the public as carrying out a religious purpose, and engage in exercise of religion consistent with, and in furtherance of, a religious purpose.”

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Source: Baptist Press