USAID "Rule" for Participation by Religious Organizations

USAID "Rule" for Participation by Religious Organizations

On October 20, 2004, USAID issued its final rule (the "Rule") on participation by religious organizations in USAID programs (69 FR 61716). The Rule amends several USAID regulations in furtherance of Executive Order 13279 (67 FR 77141), which directs executive agencies to ensure equal protection of laws for faith-based and community organizations that apply for federal funds. The Rule generally ensures that faith-based and community organizations are able to compete fairly for USAID funding, and that USAID programming decisions are based on the program eligibility criteria, without regard to the religious character or affiliation of applicants. Moreover, although faith-based organizations may not use direct USAID funds for inherently religious activities, they may continue to engage in religious activities as long as they are privately-funded, separate in either time or location from USAID activities, and voluntary for beneficiaries of the USAID-funded activity.

The Rule's principal provisions include:

  • Faith-based and community organizations are eligible to participate in USAID programs on the same basis as any other organization without regard to their religious character or affiliation and may not be excluded from competition for USAID funding. USAID may not discriminate for or against a program applicant on the basis of religious character or affiliation.

  • Faith-based and community organizations may not use direct financial assistance from USAID (or any other Federal agency) to support inherently religious activities, but are otherwise free to engage in such activities. Inherently religious activities would include worship, prayer meetings, religious instruction and proselytization. These activities must be separated either in time or location from USAID-funded programs, and participation by actual or potential program beneficiaries must be voluntary. Assistance furnished with USAID funding may not be conditioned on participation in any inherently religious activities. The separation requirement may be different for certain programs in correctional facilities, in recognition of the unique environment and needs of inmates.

  • Faith-based and community organizations will retain their independence and may continue to carry out their religious mission. For example, they may continue to engage in inherently religious activities, provided they are separated in time or location from their USAID-funded activities. Faith-based and community organizations may use their own space to provide USAID-funded services, without removing religious art, icons or symbols. Additionally, faith-based and community organizations may continue to govern themselves on a religious basis, select their board members on a religious basis, and include religious references in their organizations' mission statements.

  • USAID funds may be used for the acquisition or construction of structures, only to the extent they are used for eligible activities under the specific USAID program. For "dual use" structures, USAID funding may not exceed the proportion of the cost attributable to eligible activities. USAID funds may not be used for sanctuaries, chapels, or other rooms that a USAID-funded religious congregation uses as a principal place of worship.

  • Faith-based and community organizations may not, in providing USAID-funded program assistance, discriminate for or against any actual or potential beneficiary on the basis of religion or religious belief.

Fact Sheet: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Amending and Clarifying Participation by Religious Organizations in USAID Programs

Last updated: August 06, 2015

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