HUD Archives: News Releases
Contact: Brian Sullivan
March 15, 2002
Martinez Seeks to End Faith-Based Discrimination in HUD Programs
Announces Open Door Policy for Groups of All Faiths
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez today
announced that it is not HUDs policy to exclude faith-based organizations
from federally funded public-housing programs because of their religious beliefs.
Todays announcement furthers President Bushs commitment to break
down barriers to faith-based and other community grassroots organizations
participation in federal programs.
Martinez is notifying approximately 3,200 local public housing authorities
granting them the authority to institute "an open door policy" for
faith-based organizations to provide social services to public housing residents.
"At a time of hardship in our cities, when government resources are already
stretched to the limit, we need these guardian angels," said Martinez.
"My hope is to end the confusion and help to establish a level playing
field for faith-based and community organizations that seek a partnership with
the federal government."
Since taking office, Martinez directed a top-to-bottom review of all HUD programs
to identify barriers to the participation of community- and faith-based organizations.
As a result, HUD is working to remove these barriers and reach out to the faith
community and other grassroots organizations that are uniquely positioned to
more effectively provide social services to low-income Americans.
With todays announcement (see full text, below), Martinez
is seeking to clarify the Departments guidelines after several reports
that local housing and community development agencies were restricting access
to faith-based organizations.
For example, Martinez also responded to a recent case of a faith-based organization
in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that declined $63,000 in federal funding because
the City of Sioux Falls required it alter its practice of praying before serving
meals to homeless persons. Citing HUD guidelines, city officials asked St. Francis
House to substitute a moment of silence for the voluntary prayer. Sioux Falls
reserved funding for St. Francis House while City officials asked HUD to review
"I believe that the request that St. Francis House modify the content
of its program was improper," said Martinez. "One of the highest priorities
of this Administration is to improve the quality of our societys response
to persons in need and theres no better way to do that than encouraging
the participation of community- and faith-based organizations."
This policy guidance is similar to a statement Martinez issued last December
instructing local housing agencies not to forbid seasonal religious symbols
or displays. Citing prevailing case law, Martinez stressed that HUD regulations
do not prohibit religious displays in public settings provided equal opportunity
is provided to organizations of any faith.
HUD's Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships builds upon President
Bush�s plan to level the playing field for effective partnerships with the faith-based
and community groups. These organizations are leading the charge against homelessness,
hopelessness and promote healing to shattered neighborhoods and communities.
More information is available at HUD�s Center.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing minority homeownership,
creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income American's, supporting
the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS.
The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces
the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs
is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov.
Secretary Martinez Notice on Open Door Policy
for Faith-Based Organizations
One of HUDs most fundamental obligations is to provide residents
of public housing with living environments that are reflective of their human
dignity. The Department seeks to break down barriers that isolate public housing
residents from their communities by providing them with access to counseling,
training, and enrichment programs, to give them the tools they need to prepare
for economic independence.
I want to use this opportunity to encourage managers of public housing facilities
and other multi-family facilities to provide access to the common areas and
meeting rooms of your facilities to organizations that conduct these programs.
At HUD, we believe great weight should be given to the desires of residents
in determining the nature of programs conducted at housing facilities. I hope
you will actively discern the kinds of programs that are desired and can be
Finally, I want to affirm that HUD follows a fundamental constitutional principle
regarding faith-based organizations, articulated by the Supreme Court: to the
extent the common areas and meeting rooms are made available to any organization
for the purpose of conducting residential programs, faith-based organizations
may not be denied the equal right of access because of their religious character.
To do so is to engage in viewpoint discrimination, in violation of the free
speech rights of the organization - and perhaps the religious exercise
rights of the residents as well.
Please know that I admire and appreciate all that you do to assist those who
are in need in your community. Best wishes for your continued service.
Content Archived: April 9, 2010