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HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 02-150
Brian Sullivan (202) 708-0685

For Release
December 12, 2002

Revised regulations will level the playing field for faith-based groups serving the poor

PHILADELPHIA - President Bush today proposed an end to federal regulations that unnecessarily limit religious organizations' access to grant programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Bush told 1,500 faith-based leaders in Philadelphia that his proposal is designed to place them on an equal footing with other community-based organizations that serve low-income Americans and revitalize distressed neighborhoods.

"An organization's faith should not be the yardstick we use to measure its ability to serve families and communities," said HUD Secretary Mel Martinez. "President Bush is making it abundantly clear he intends to end this form of regulatory discrimination so we can focus on which organizations can most effectively provide housing and services to those who need them most."

The proposed rule announced today would remove unwarranted barriers to the equal participation of faith-based organizations in HUD's programs. The objective is to ensure that HUD programs do not discriminate and are open to all qualified applicants, regardless of their religious affiliation. The proposed rule would amend the regulations for the following HUD programs: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program; HOME Investment Partnerships program; Hope for Homeownership of Single-Family Homes; Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA); Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) program; Shelter Plus Care; Supportive Housing; and, Youthbuild.

The proposed rule would:

  • Promote Participation. The revisions would make certain that qualifying organizations are eligible to participate in HUD programs without regard to their religious character or affiliation.
  • Clarify Religious Activity. The proposed rule would make it clear that participating organizations may not use HUD funds to support inherently religious activities such as worship, religious instruction or proselytizing. In addition, the new rule would clarify that HUD funds may not be used for the acquisition, construction or rehabilitation of structures to the extent those structures are used for inherently religious activities.
  • Promote Independence. The proposal allows religious organizations that participate in HUD programs to retain their independence and continue to carry out their mission, provided that they do not use HUD funds to support inherently religious activities. Among other things, HUD-funded religious organizations will not be required to remove religious art, icons or symbols from their facilities as a condition of funding, and they may continue to select their board members on a religious basis.
  • Emphasize Nondiscrimination. The proposed rule would prohibit participating religious organizations from discriminating against any program beneficiary or prospective program beneficiary on the basis of religion or religious belief.
  • Uphold Equal Treatment. The proposed rule would remove regulations that single out religious organizations by requiring they conduct eligible program activities in a manner that is "free from religious influences." Currently no such requirement applies to non-religious organizations.

Earlier this year, Martinez announced that HUD supports the participation of faith-based and community groups in federally funded public housing programs. Martinez authorized approximately 3,200 local housing agencies to institute "an open door policy" for faith-based organizations to provide social services to public housing residents.

In addition, Martinez last December prohibited local housing agencies from forbidding seasonal religious symbols or displays in federally funded public housing - stressing that HUD regulations do not prohibit such displays in public settings, provided that equal opportunity is provided to organizations of all faiths.

HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities, creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans, 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.



Content Archived: April 9, 2010

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