The U.S. Department of Labor is making religious freedom a major focus, announcing new protections for federal employees and faith-based grant recipients last week, with religious freedom groups praising the move.
On May 15, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia issued a directive that agency leaders should incorporate respect for religious freedom into the daily business of the department, according to the Catholic News Agency.
The agency also announced specific protections for faith-based organizations and religious nonprofits applying for federal grants, stressing equal treatment for both religious and secular groups applying for grants.
The new guidance “affirms the value of religious liberty but goes one important step further to make these protections real and concrete,” said Gregory S. Baylor, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.
“We commend Secretary Scalia for recognizing the immense value that religious organizations contribute to our communities and setting up a mechanism by which these groups may seek protection if they are unconstitutionally and unfairly targeted for their religious character—the very thing that motivates them to do the good work they do,” Baylor said.
Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO, and chief counsel for the First Liberty Institute, praised the new directive and guidance, saying that without them, “religious organizations risk facing discrimination for making employment decisions that are consistent with their beliefs.”
“Religious organizations should never be forced to abandon their religious character and mission in order to be eligible to contract with the federal government,” Shackelford said.
Scalia’s directive said that agency officials should ensure “reasonable religious accommodations” for employees and job applicants, and enforce anti-religious discrimination provisions of federal law.