Lankford, Budd Stand Up for Religious Liberty of Federal Contractors

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Ted Budd (R-NC) and their colleagues introduced a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) final rule, which rescinds the 2020 rule “Implementing Legal Requirements Regarding the Equal Opportunity Clause’s Religious Exemption” issued by the Trump Administration to protect faith-based contractors from discrimination.

“Federal contractors should not have to check their faith at the door because they want to do business with the federal government,” said Lankford. “The First Amendment is clear that everyone in our nation has the right to have a faith, live their faith, change their faith, or have no faith at all. No American should be forced by any Administration to choose between their First Amendment freedom and doing business with the federal government. I remain strongly opposed to the Biden Administration’s ongoing push to trample on Americans’ right to live their faith.”

“President Trump’s rule was an important step to strengthen religious liberty protections for faith-based contractors,” said Budd. “The Biden Administration’s reversal of this rule needlessly targets faith-based organizations that simply want to serve our communities alongside their secular counterparts without violating their religious beliefs. I am pleased to join this effort to keep the appropriate protections in place to ensure employers of faith are able to operate within their values.”

“The foundation of America is freedom, but the foundation of freedom is faith. If we want to keep our country strong, we can’t sit idly by while the Biden administration forces Americans to choose between partnering with the government and their beliefs. I was proud to have partners like Senator Lankford when we advanced our rule through the Trump-Pence Department of Labor, and I look forward to working with him to protect our rule and keep faith-based protections permanent,” said former Vice President Mike Pence.

Lankford continues to champion the protection of every American’s right to freely exercise their faith in their public and private lives. Lankford recently applauded the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in favor of protecting the right to live out your faith in the workplace in a case where a USPS employee believed he must observe the Sunday Sabbath. Lankford supported Coach Joe Kennedy when he was fired from his job as a high school football coach for silently praying after games. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Coach Kennedy in June 2022.

Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Braun (R-IN), JD Vance (R-OH), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Steve Daines (R-MT), Katie Britt (R-AL), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jim Risch (R-ID), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), John Thune (R-SD), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) cosponsored the resolution.

Lankford’s resolution is supported by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Religious Liberty, Scholars at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, America First Policy Institute, Advancing American Freedom, Independent Women’s Network, Family Research Council, Heritage, CatholicVote, Alliance Defending Freedom, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Family Policy Alliance.

Background on the Resolution

On December 9, 2020, OFCCP published its final religious exemption rule, which went into effect January 8, 2021. The rule promoted the full and equal participation of faith-based organizations as federal contractors and was intended to broaden the pool of applicants for government contractors since many religious entities were hesitant to partner with the government out of fear of sanction for abiding by their beliefs.

The 2020 rule clarified the existing exemption found in Executive Order 11246 on who qualified for an exemption, which consisted largely of nonprofits, but some for-profits were also covered. It clarified that employers can take religion into account during employment decisions. The rule did not change the vast majority of federal contractors’ responsibilities to comply with their obligations under the Executive Order. At the time, the DOL expected that the large majority of federal contractors would not qualify or seek to qualify for the religious exemption. 

The final 2020 rule provided clarification regarding the full scope of a religious exemption and affirmed that faith-based entities have the ability to hire people who share their faith mission, not just people who share the same religion. It also affirmed that contractors are able to carry out their work consistent with their faith mission even if they accept a federal contract or grant.

In November 2021, the Biden Administration issued proposed rule to rescind the Trump-era rule. Senator Lankford led his colleagues in opposition to the proposed rescission by filing a public comment letter.