U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

Equal Treatment for Faith-Based Organizations

The Department of Justice (DOJ) promulgated a regulation on January 21, 2004 to ensure that no organization will be discriminated against in a Department-funded social services program on the basis of religion and that department-funded social services are available to all regardless of religion. The regulation, entitled "Participation in Justice Department Programs by Religious Organizations; Providing for Equal Treatment of all Justice Department Program Participants, and known as the Equal Treatment Regulation, is codified at 28 C.F.R. part 38. It reflects the principles of President Bush’s Executive Order No. 13279 that religiously affiliated (or "faith-based") organizations should be able to compete on an equal footing with other organizations for funding.

This regulation ensures a level playing field for the participation of faith-based organizations as well as other community organizations in Department programs by:

  • Prohibiting discrimination for or against an organization on the basis of religion, religious belief, or religious character in the administration or distribution of Federal funds;
  • Allowing a religious organization that participates in Department programs to retain its independence and continue to carry out its mission, provided that direct Department funds do not support any inherently religious activities. While inherently religious activities are permissible, they must be separate in time or place from the funded program, and participation in such activities by individuals receiving services must be voluntary;
  • Clarifying that faith-based organizations can use space in their facilities to provide Department-funded services without removing religious art, icons, scriptures, or other religious symbols; and
  • Ensuring that no organization that receives direct financial assistance from the Department can discriminate against a program beneficiary, or prospective beneficiary, on the basis of religion or religious belief.

The regulation applies to departmental employees who make funding decisions and administer programs as well as to DOJ grantees and sub-grantees. Recipients of DOJ funding should consult their attorney about this regulation.

Inquiries about the regulation or concerns of possible violations may be directed to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR also serves as the civil rights officer for the Office for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and the Office on Violence Against Women. Please send inquires to:

Office of Justice Programs
Office for Civil Rights
810 7th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20531
Phone: 202-307-0690
Fax: 202-616-9865
TDD/TTY: 202-307-2027

More information is available on the Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships web site.

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