Beliefs Institutions Politics

White House proposes rules on faith-based social services

melissa rogers
Melissa Rogers is the Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Photo by Ken Bennett, ©2004 Wake Forest University Office of Creative Services
Melissa Rogers is the Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Photo by Ken Bennett, ©2004 Wake Forest University Office of Creative Services

Melissa Rogers is director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Photo by Ken Bennett, ©2004 Wake Forest University Office of Creative Services

(RNS) The Obama administration released proposed rules Wednesday (Aug. 5) designed to protect the religious freedom of people who receive social services from government-funded religious programs.

The regulations, involving nine federal agencies, would extend rules from a 2010 executive order so they last beyond this administration, said Melissa Rogers, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The rules include notifying social service beneficiaries that they cannot be discriminated against based on their religious beliefs and may request an alternative provider if they object to the religious nature of the current provider.

“Those kinds of alternative provider protections are present in some federal programs, like substance abuse programs, via federal statute, but they were not extended across this wide array of programs,” she told Religion News Service.

READGrowing coalition presses Obama to end policy on religious discrimination in hiring

The rules also clarify or reiterate church-state separation required of religious organizations that receive funding.

“For example, if a faith-based provider offers a Bible study as well as a federally supported job training program, the Bible study must be privately funded and separated in time or location from the job training program,” Rogers said in an announcement of the proposed rules.

The rules also note that religious providers should have equal access to the governmental grant process and can maintain religious language in their names and organizational documents, such as mission statements.

The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State welcomed the proposals.

“These proposed regulations should go a long way toward ensuring that taxpayer-funded organizations abide by the Constitution,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, who advised the White House on the reforms. “By doing so, the regulations will ensure those who seek services won’t be kicked out of a homeless shelter or a drug treatment class because they don’t want to pray or listen to preaching.”

READ: Church-state separationist James Dunn dead at 83

The clarification and changes in the rules stem from recommendations made by a council of advisers from faith-based and secular organizations, which Rogers chaired before being named to lead the office in 2013. The agencies will accept comments from the public about the proposed rules for the next 60 days.

The rules do not address the ongoing criticism by church-state separationists that faith-based organizations that receive government funding are permitted to discriminate in hiring based on religion.


About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.


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  • Giving tax-payer money to faith-based organizations should stop. Religious leaders, especially Catholic officials, tout this charity as their own and use it to polish their PR image. Tax-payer funds should be restricted to government programs administered by government employees.

  • These horrible Faith-Based services must be shut down immediately.

    Funding the duplicitous Killer God Yahweh and his equally fictional sidekick, Jesus as official policy is a national disgrace.

    “I shall kill her children with death” – JESUS (Rev. 2:23)

    Promote Dumbledore or Gandalf instead. We’d be better for it.

  • “the regulations will ensure those who seek services won’t be kicked out of a homeless shelter or a drug treatment class because they don’t want to pray or listen to preaching.”

    The fact that this had to be articulated is a clear sign that religion is divisive nonsense.

  • your personal beliefs aside, would you really rather have these programs placed in the hands of the bureaucratic monstrosity that is the federal government? Why take the responsibility for helping others away from those who view such work as a moral mandate and give it to those who view it as just another job they’d rather not be doing? The faith-based initiative was created for exactly that reason, as it happens. The program needs the reforms outlined above, obviously, and probably much more. But to remove it entirely seems like it would only leave a lot of people who rely on those programs in very dire situations, wouldn’t you agree?

  • “your personal beliefs aside, would you really rather have these programs placed in the hands of the bureaucratic monstrosity that is the federal government? ”


    The whole privatizing of social services here has been a ridiculous, wasteful, unconstitutional, and discriminatory boondoggle from the moment GW Bush created the department of “Faith Based Services”.

    Time and again we see how the need of various churches to push sectarian agendas outweighs the notion of providing services to the poor. These new rules would not be proposed if not for the rampant abuse by these “faith based providers”.

    Churches never needed our tax dollars before, they don’t now. If you want to support churches providing social services, donate your own money and time.

  • Andrew,

    All faith-based programs must be removed immediately. They are promoting dangerous garbage and harming the population – at the taxpayer expense.

    The Government beauracracy does a fine enough job.

  • Max,

    How are your comments and well-held belief system not exactly like Stalin’s Soviet Russia or Adolf H’s Socialist Germany?

    Your hostility results in deaths of tens of millions if history is any guide to reality. Seems you can’t be civil. Trouble with a legion inside you I presume.

  • This is Stalin-like and describes the souls of anti-Christians like Barry Lynn and Max and Larry and progressives (Democrats) et al perfectly.

    The enemy of Christians are gaining boldness. They feel no need for the façade anymore.

  • Christians need to obey the law within the boundaries of the Gospel. As Obama’s cabal will try to put a fence around Christian outreach, it will ultimately fail. Obama may believe he is a god, but he and his ilk are just a new style Caesar and Rome that will soon just be trash and dust on the floor of history.

    As the godlessness now seen as “secularism” is killing off more and more of those that embrace it. and when some will finally see it for the evil that it truly is, the Gospel will always remain the beacon of hope and joy that Jesus created it to be, to call the lost to a real life worth living.

  • Stalin learned how to be a dictator from a Christian seminary education. His cult of personality has more in common with your Christian faith than the words of the Humanist Manifesto or the writings of Christopher Hitchens.

    So tell me again why your God needs my cash?
    Doesn’t he get enough from contributions by good Christian-folk?

  • Hey if you don’t want Caesar’s coin, then don’t put your hand out. Charities existed for centuries without requiring a government handout. They can continue to do so.

    Nobody is stopping good Christian-folk from contributing towards various social service programs. Nothing except their own indifference to the poor. If religious charities have to survive on the government’s dime, it means you believers are not really doing your duty here. The fault lies in them, not the government propping them up.

  • BB,


    Do you know absolutely nothing of history?
    Stalin was a religionist – he outlawed one superstitious Dogma and propped up his own superstitious dogma! He was a Messianic figure – a religious leader. He is celebrated with icons in churches today with a halo over his head!

    Honestly, must I educate you on all subjects: Science, History, Civil law and religion too!!?

    The Constitution of the United States forbids STALIN!
    Why is that not enough for you?

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion, nor prohibit the exercise thereof”

    It is IMPOSSIBLE for a Stalin to emerge in the United States as long as religious dogma CANNOT BE ENFORCED BY THE STATE.

  • Max, it’s too bad you’re woefully ignorant of the way America has done social services throughout its history…..and what Tocqueville wrote on this in his “Democracy in America.”

    It’s also too bad that people with your ideology replaced this great legacy with government-driven anti-poverty schemes that have failed the poor miserably.

  • Well said, Andrew. Based on any normal criteria of what works in the real world, community-based, faith-driven charities are far better than big government not just at providing social services but at actually lifting people out of poverty. All government does, with its perverse incentives and disincentives, is lock generation after generation in poverty. And as you pointed out, from the donor’s perspective, these local nonprofits stretch each dollar far better because it doesn’t get eaten up by the overhead of fat salaries of cold bureaucrats.

  • LOL….Christopher Hitchens’ desperate claims that atheist genocidal maniacs were really theist genocidal maniacs were just that — desperate. They were yet another form of the “no-true-Scotsman” fallacy — albeit a especially brazen one.

  • It’s the other way around, Larry:

    Why don’t you ideological fanatics stop forcing taxpayers to fund your failed war-on-poverty schemes? Why can’t the money go instead to successful charities in neighborhoods across the nation so they can help even more people get out of poverty, not lock future generations in poverty?

  • Wrong, Larry. Christians and others are forced to contribute trillions of dollars in taxes to absolutely failed government programs that harm the very people they’re supposed to help. Every dollar that goes down this appalling rat hole is one less dollar that goes to worthy nonprofits with a proven record of getting people out of poverty, not locked into it.

  • Then you don’t give a hoot about poor people, Larry.

    You’d rather pour poverty money down a government rat hole than have that money go to nonprofits that actually get people out of poverty.

    A child can understand why the government approach fails and the nonprofit approach succeeds. Give a government bureaucracy money and most of it goes to overhead — salaries. Give a successful nonprofit the same amount of money and most of it goes out the door to help the people we’re supposed to be helping, because overhead is low, since it was begun by a motivated social entrepreneur and staffed by dedicated volunteers.

    Again, Larry, you favor the top-down, central-government-driven French model of society over the bottom-up American model. Tocqueville, a Frenchman, marveled at the American model when he saw it first-hand in the 1830s.

  • @Jack,

    “a proven record of getting people out of poverty..”

    Yes. It is called the emancipation of women. It is the silver bullet which ends poverty.

    The emancipation of women works in every country where it has been tried:

    And every religion objects to the emancipation of women.
    “The woman shall be subservient to her husband” – Paul

  • Regarding poverty, Max says:

    “The government bureaucracy does a fine enough job.”

    Max, are you out of your mind?

    Get out of mid-life-crisis mode for a second and check back into reality.

    Take a look at our inner cities across America. And just for one second, think with the right organ and pity the kids……the children….the next generation, locked into cycles of poverty and pathology. Think of all the government programs that pay people not to work, not to hope, not to dream, not to think of the future, not to save, not to get married. Think of how many of those kids are vulnerable to joining gangs to prove their masculinity because they’ve been robbed of having fathers around. Think of the death toll on the streets of Chicago and other cities — not just for kids who go the wrong way, but of innocent bystanders, including infants, shot in crossfire.

    This is what you call a “fine enough job?”


  • The emancipation of women helps for obvious reasons, but that’s not the heart of the matter in today’s battle against poverty, when the root causes are something entirely different — often behavioral, which, in turn, are fueled by bad government policies which reward destructive behavior while penalizing productive behavior.

    And as for your parting pot shot at Paul, it was Paul who said that a man’s body was not his own but that of his wife….meaning the obvious…..To call that “subservience” is quite an Orwellian thing to do.

    Now that I’ve given you an excuse to ignore everything I’ve said on poverty and attend to your favorite subject of bashing religion, go to it and prove I am right as usual about you and your base motives.

  • PAUL is a nightmare of male chauvinism, repressed homosexuality, epileptic, psychotic nonsense and tribalist phobias.

    PAUL was only right twice:

    1. Believers VERY WELL might be victims of lie! – ‘the most pathetic of all’. (1 Corinthians 15:4)

    “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised….then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.”

    2. Second when he said it would be best to focus on the beauty of the world – without mentioning god! (Philippians 4:8)

  • Jack,

    “Inner city”

    AS ONE WHO LIVES IN THE INNER CITY let me tell you.
    You have no idea what you are talking about.

    The inner city is a disaster because of Religion.
    Right wing Christian Republicans and their 40 years of draconian cuts across the board: Education, planned parenthood, healthcare, community development! IT IS A DISGRACE HERE!

    And Christian preachers demand more money from their impoverished citizens – for what? To preach against humanity and force disaster!

    As for “mid-life” crisis – forget it! You are closer to that than I am.


  • Max, in almost every nook and cranny of the world, religion is a big deal to people. When a particular religion predominates, namely post-Gutenberg-printing-press, biblical Christianity, countries shed ancient superstitions, embrace science and freedom, and the result is alleviation of poverty.

    That’s what happened in the West after the Reformation and that’s what’s now happening outside the West, in Asia and Africa. While Nigeria, for example, remains extremely corrupt and is being buffeted by Boko Haram terrorism, the Christian areas are booming economically, even with the oil drop. Eventually Nigeria will overtake South Africa in the economic realm. In Hong Kong, Christians played a vital role in both a boom and in pro-democracy demonstrations. The same is true of South Korea and Taiwan.

    Now, of course, when prosperity comes, people often forget what made them prosperous and trust in prosperity, rejecting the beliefs that opened prosperity’s doors.

  • Max, if you literally live in an inner city, in a poor neighborhood, that makes your posts all the more shameful, because you have no excuse for being so willfully ignorant about poverty and pathology. That means you’re not the slightest bit curious about what’s happening around you and why.

    The good news is that some inner city neighborhoods, like NY’s Harlem, are better than 40 years ago. But that’s precisely because of sound government policies starting in the 90s, including public/private partnerships, with churches and for-profits linking with government to bring entire blocks and neighborhoods back from the dead, along with businesses and jobs.

    So it’s you who don’t know what you’re talking about. Either you’re lying or exaggerating about where you live, or you are living in an ideological bubble that shields you from reality.

  • Nice try at dodging, Max, but Paul said what he said about marriage, and it contradicts your canard about him.

  • Jack,

    I CERTAINLY KNOW where I live!

    But by all means, pontificate your Christian claims until you turn purple.
    It won’t change the enormity of damage done to my part of town by RIGHT WING CHRISTIAN POLITICIANS who destroyed all funding for all people who need anything!

    Congrats! Christians have ruined every single town they ever ran!
    Wherever religion dies out, humanity flourishes:

    Sweden, Netherlands, Holland, Massachusetts, Washington State, San Francisco, Switzerland, France.

    Where does life STINK? Wherever Religion Rules!
    Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, INNER CITIES LIKE MINE,


  • And the cost?

    – the faith-based federal projects supported by both Bush and Obama: $385 million/yr. and another $2 billion/yr. in grants.

    And for what? Promotion of out-dated religions that are historically and theologically flawed starting with the resurrection con.

  • Please cite sources for your assertions that Christian areas of Nigeria are booming and the allegedly pivotal role Christians had in pro democracy movements in S. Korea and Taiwan.

    Apologists are notorious for making assertions to bolster the image of their faith that are bereft of factual support. Simply put, they lie too often in service of their faith to take any claim concerning history at face value.

  • Jack you couldn’t make an honest, factually supported argument to save your life.

    Religious charities are notorious for both discriminatory behavior and squandering funds on sectarian concerns. The necessity for having to draw up the rules is more than apparent.

    There is no problem with using non profit organizations to assist government efforts. But they need not be religious. In fact being religious appears to be a hindrance to serving the needs of a wide and varied population.

    I find libertarian arguments to be naive and simply exist to promote corruption at local levels. They find that organizations and corporations have rights but people do not.

    Poverty was never dealt with adequately when social services were entirely private, they won’t do the job effectively now.

  • Jack, the only people on this board who repeatedly show ignorance and contempt for democratic processes, rule of law and civil liberties are the ones with a bible in their hands trying to use it like a bludgeoning tool.

    Your silly guilt by association bits are so far removed from reality that it is more of a mantra than an argument.

    So please tell me why your God needs my cash? Why should I be forced to further the goals of your religion?

  • Jack answer the question posed, if these religious charities are so effective and Christians are so generous, why do they feel the need to ask for government funding in the first place?

    Being so clueless, you are forgetting that we are talking about government money going to religious charities. That “rathole” you refer to are the very organizations you are trying to support here.

  • The subject of tax payer faith based programs goes much deeper then those defending it seem to realize. Let’s consider the actual cost vs outcome. Faith based non profit organizations aren’t required to follow the same rules as state / federal funded treatment programs. Thus they employ unqualified men and women to administer treatment programs. Not to mention where the money really goes. The court ordered participant is sent to a crappy facility run by a bunch of ex felons while the owners of these organizations live in million dollar homes, drive luxury automobiles, dress in then thousand dollar suits and jet around the world on the tax payers hard earned income. This is the reality behind faith based non profits, involved in these so called treatment programs. Not to mention they don’t work. Repeat offender rates are higher then those of non faith based certified treatment programs. Thus faith based programs are a wash in failure. They’re kin to snake oil salesmen. Nothing more!