CNA Staff, Dec 8, 2020 / 10:00 am
The Labor Department (DOL) finalized a rule on Monday that allows faith-based government contractors to make employment decisions based on their religious beliefs.
The rule clarifies existing protections for faith-based contractors that date back to the Johnson era. It allows them to hire only people of a certain faith without regard to an anti-discrimination requirement of the government.
Exempt contractors can also make employment decisions based on an employee’s “acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets.”
The final rule retains most of the proposed rule, with some alterations regarding the scope of the religious exemption, DOL said.
Religion, according to the rule, includes “religious belief” as well as “all aspects of religious observance and practice.”
Eligible religious groups are not limited to churches and similar bodies, DOL said, but can be “a corporation, association, educational institution, society, school, college, university, or institution of learning” that is “organized for a religious purpose.”
The rule also says that “the contractor must engage in activity consistent with, and in furtherance of, its religious purpose” and is exempt when it “makes it reasonably clear to the public that it has a religious purpose.”
The agency says it would not challenge a group’s “sincere” claim of religious character, but a “sincere” claim must be more substantial than a group adding “a religious purpose to its documents after it becomes aware of potential discrimination liability or government scrutiny.”