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American Atheists Celebrates Restoration of Religious Freedom Protections for Recipients of Federally Funded Social Services

Washington, D.C. – Today, American Atheists praised the Biden Administration for its issuance of final rules restoring critical religious equality and civil rights protections for millions of Americans who receive government-funded social services.

“The Biden administration has taken a vital step towards fulfilling its promise – and this nation’s promise – of equality under the law regardless of one’s religious or nonreligious beliefs,” said Alison Gill, Vice President of Legal and Policy at American Atheists. “I am pleased to see leaders in Washington re-prioritizing Americans in need, and protecting their constitutional rights over the interests of faith-based entities that receive millions of taxpayer dollars every year.” 

The final rules rescind and replace harmful Trump-era policies that undermined Americans’ constitutional rights and stripped away much-needed safeguards against religious-based discrimination. In 2021, American Atheists constituents submitted nearly 25,000 comments opposing the Trump administration’s changes, and the organization joined a broad coalition of civil rights and religious equality advocacy groups that filed suit to stop their implementation. 

Gill noted, “The previous administration’s rules not only undermined Americans’ constitutional rights but also made it unnecessarily burdensome for some of nation’s most vulnerable populations to access essential, taxpayer-funded programs and services – from shelters for the unhoused and survivors of domestic violence to food banks, job training, education programs, and elder care.” 

In 2023, American Atheists submitted comments in support of the regulations proposed by the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and offered amendments to further strengthen nondiscrimination protections for nonreligious Americans, writing, “American Atheists believes that government programs should be inclusive and accessible to people regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.”

Jointly issued by nine federal agencies, the final rules will require government-funded social service providers to inform beneficiaries of their legal rights to be free from religious-based discrimination and forced participation in prayer or other religious programming. 

“We are relieved and grateful the Biden administration has affirmed that religion is not a license to discriminate,” said Nick Fish, President of American Atheists. “Whether they are faith-based or not, any organization that receives taxpayer dollars should never be in the business of discriminating, denying care, or forcing Americans to participate in religious programming in order to access essential services to which they are entitled.” 

The final rules will take effect on April 3, 2024.