The U.S. Department of State has issued a proposed rule that would impose new restrictions on social service organizations that receive grants or contracts to carry out international assistance and refugee resettlement programs.

The rule prohibits discrimination based on a long and undefined list of criteria, including indigeneity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics. The rule covers not only the treatment of program beneficiaries — which is not objectionable — but the employment practices of grantee and contractual partners.

The National Association of Evangelicals submitted comments — joined by Compassion International and the Thomas More Society — that show that the rule goes far beyond what Congress has enacted in employment nondiscrimination legislation. Nowhere has Congress authorized the department to define new bases of discrimination. We also point out that the rule makes no mention of the constitutional and statutory rights of religious groups, including the religious liberty clauses in the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

We ask the Department of State to withdraw the rule. Failing that, we ask them to define several terms so that social service providers can know what the law requires, and to explicitly acknowledge the protections available to religious organizations. If the rules are finalized without amendment, we anticipate they will be challenged in the courts.

Read the Comments