Congressional Caucuses Oppose Trump Admin Rules to Weaken First Amendment Rights

The Freethought Caucus, Democratic Women’s Caucus, and LGBT Equality Caucus oppose proposed rules that will undermine the social safety net by reducing people’s access to critical services.

February 20, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the Freethought Caucus – chaired by Representatives Jared Huffman (CA-02) and Jaime Raskin (MD-08) – the Democratic Women’s Caucus (DWC), and the LGBT Equality Caucus led 34 members in sending letters urging the Trump Administration to withdraw proposed regulations that govern the relationship between the government and faith-based social service providers. The nine proposed rules eliminate critical religious freedom protections recommended by the previous administration’s President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood partnerships for people who use government-funded social service programs, opening the door for discrimination in taxpayer-funded programs and making it harder for vulnerable communities to seek assistance.

The letters state in part: “It is not difficult to imagine the negative impact these changes could have on marginalized or vulnerable communities. A gay, homeless teen might not seek services such as housing, food, treatment, or counseling, and would lose the opportunity to find a place to live because they know the religion of the faith-based provider condemns them for being gay. A woman could be denied benefits based on a provider’s religious belief that women should not work outside the home. A Jewish, Muslim, or nonreligious person might forgo counseling for substance use disorder and job training because the only program they know of is in a church adorned with Christian symbols. A single mother seeking parenting classes or after-school services for her children could be forced to receive those services from a faith-based provider that believes having children outside of marriage is a sin because she doesn’t have the resources to find another provider.”

The letters continue: “Government-funded social services should serve everyone. No one should be turned away from getting the help they need because they cannot meet a religious test. Nor should people be denied services they are entitled to receive because the taxpayer-funded provider that voluntarily applied for a grant has a religious objection. The proposed regulations undermine the goal of providing services for all, and will damage the public’s confidence in government services. Accordingly, we urge you to reject the proposed rules.”

Together, these caucuses represent close to 200 members from across the country. The DWC is led by Co-Chairs Rep. Lois Frankel (FL-21), Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14), and Vice Chairs Rep. Veronica Escobar (TX-16) and Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-01). The Equality Caucus is led by Co-Chairs Rep. David Ciciline (RI-1), Rep. Angie Craig (MN-2), Rep. Sharice Davids (KS-3), Rep. Chris Pappas (NH-1), Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2), and Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41). The Freethought Caucus is led by Chairs Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-6) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8).

The letters are supported by: Americans United, National Women’s Law Center, The American Humanist Association, American Atheists, Center for Inquiry, Secular Coalition for America, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL Pro Choice, Jewish Women International, National Center for Transgender Equality, Freedom from Religion Foundation, and Catholics for Choice.

For full text of the letters, click here.