Washington, DC—This month, the religious freedom watchdog American Atheists called on the Biden Administration to restore freedom of religion protections in social services, as the Administration has promised. On the proposed rule, American Atheists submitted comments providing expertise and guidance to nine federal agencies: the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, and Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Atheists and nonreligious people continue to face stigma and discrimination because of their nonreligious beliefs. The proposed rule will help to protect beneficiaries of federally funded social services by reversing the discriminatory and harmful rules implemented by the Trump Administration,” wrote Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy for American Atheists, in the organization’s comments submitted to the nine departments and agencies.
During its final days, the Trump Administration rolled back protections requiring faith-based organizations to inform recipients of their legal rights to be free from discrimination, not to have to attend religious activities, and to have the opportunity to get a referral to an alternative provider. By gutting these religious freedom safeguards, the Trump Administration targeted vulnerable recipients of these programs, religious minorities and nonreligious people. Shortly thereafter, American Atheists joined partners from across the religious spectrum in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s discriminatory changes.
“In America, no one’s ability to get vital services should depend on whether they share the religious beliefs of organizations the government selects to be providers,” added Gill. “By reinstating these critical protections, the Biden Administration ensures that everyone will be able to access government-funded services without being deprived of their civil rights or subject to religious coercion.”
American Atheists’ lawsuit is currently stayed while the Biden Administration proceeds with rulemaking.