On Monday, Joe Biden’s Department of Labor stated that it is amending a regulation adopted under President Donald Trump that protects religious freedom. The attack rule gives more expansive protections to federal contractors claiming exemptions to hiring rules based on religious beliefs.
The Trump-era rule makes it more clear that faith-based organizations receiving federal government contracts maintain the right to hire or retain persons who share the organization’s faith or religious beliefs.
The Trump administration rule took effect on January 8, 2021, and expanded the regulatory definition of “religious employers” to include organizations that present themselves to the public with a “religious purpose.” The change added to the types of discrimination the federal government cannot engage in as defined during the Obama administration. Religious organizations were given equal footing with “physical orientation” and “gender identity.”
Craig Leen, director of the Office for Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) under Trump, said that the rule helps ensure that religious organizations can enjoy the protections of the First Amendment and federal law when seeking federal contracts.
The OFCCP states that the Trump-era change to the rule departs from “long-standing policy” regarding interpretations of “religious exemptions” under Title VII. Biden’s OFCCP director, Jenny Yang, said that changing the rule “simply returns” to a policy of applying “Title VII principles” to each case.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) takes issue with the rule change, stating that it is a “direct attack” on any employer “who dares follow their faith.” She said that the Biden administration is “eagerly stripping” First Amendment rights away. Foxx added that the Trump rule benefitted taxpayers, employees, and job creators who do not deny their religion. Still, the change proposed by Biden helps only “left-wing special interests.”
Biden, a professed Catholic who also supports abortion on demand, has been hostile to religious exemptions since assuming office. His administration has recently refused to say that it will obey a federal court order protecting the religious freedom of persons otherwise subject to the administration’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.