WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, James Lankford (R-OK), Ted Budd (R-NC), and 22 Republican colleagues introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn a new Department of Labor (DOL) rule that removes religious protections for federal contractors put into place by the Trump administration.
“No business should be discriminated against or have less opportunity because of its owner’s religious values,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Proud to join this effort to protect the religious freedoms of all Americans.”
“Federal contractors should not have to check their faith at the door because they want to do business with the federal government,” said Senator Lankford. “The First Amendment is clear that everyone in our nation has the right to have a faith, live their faith, change their faith, or have no faith at all. No American should be forced by any Administration to choose between their First Amendment freedom and doing business with the federal government. I remain strongly opposed to the Biden Administration’s ongoing push to trample on Americans’ right to live their faith.”
“President Trump’s rule was an important step to strengthen religious liberty protections for faith-based contractors,” said Senator Budd. “The Biden Administration’s reversal of this rule needlessly targets faith-based organizations that simply want to serve our communities alongside their secular counterparts without violating their religious beliefs. I am pleased to join this effort to keep the appropriate protections in place to ensure employers of faith are able to operate within their values.”
The senators are joined by U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Braun (R-IN), JD Vance (R-OH), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Steve Daines (R-MT), Katie Britt (R-AL), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jim Risch (R-ID), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), John Thune (R-SD), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) in cosponsoring this CRA.
On December 9, 2020, OFCCP published its final religious exemption rule, which went into effect January 8, 2021. The rule promoted the full and equal participation of faith-based organizations as federal contractors and was intended to broaden the pool of applicants for government contractors since many religious entities were hesitant to partner with the government out of fear of sanction for abiding by their beliefs.
The 2020 rule clarified the existing exemption found in Executive Order 11246 on who qualified for an exemption, which consisted largely of nonprofits, but some for-profits were also covered. It clarified that employers can take religion into account during employment decisions. The rule did not change the vast majority of federal contractors’ responsibilities to comply with their obligations under the Executive Order. At the time, the DOL expected that the large majority of federal contractors would not qualify or seek to qualify for the religious exemption.
The final 2020 rule provided clarification regarding the full scope of a religious exemption and affirmed that faith-based entities have the ability to hire people who share their faith mission, not just people who share the same religion. It also affirmed that contractors are able to carry out their work consistent with their faith mission even if they accept a federal contract or grant.
In November 2021, the Biden administration issued proposed rule to rescind the Trump-era rule.