ACF Policy on Grants to Faith-Based Organizations

The American people have long shown their considerable compassion and generosity through a broad range of community-based entities, including a diverse group of faith-based organizations.  Faith-based groups provide critical human services, and, in emergencies, they consistently stand shoulder-to-shoulder with government in the first line of response.  Our nation is stronger for their work.

As a result of the considerable capabilities of faith-based organizations, the federal government frequently provides grants or contracts to them to carry out needed services.  For the Administration for Children and Families in HHS, faith-based organizations have long been and will continue to be partners in our work. 

We are mindful that some potential grantees may have religious objections to providing certain kinds of services, including referrals.  This administration is committed to providing the full range of legally permissible services to people who need them, and to doing so in a timely fashion and in a manner that respects the diverse religious and cultural backgrounds of those we serve.  At the same time, we also are committed to finding ways for organizations to partner with us even if they object to providing specific services on religious grounds.

The following are ways in which organizations with such objections may be able to participate in human services programs:

  • Serve as subgrantees:  In many cases, subgrantees do not need to provide every service for which the grantee is responsible, so long as all clients served have access to all services required under the grant in a timely and respectful manner.  Grantees must ensure that their overall program provides all of the required services, but grantees can use subgrantees to provide some services.  Under this arrangement, as long as other subgrantees are readily available to provide clients with the objected-to services, a subgrantee may participate in the grant program while declining to provide services to which they have religious objection.
  • Apply in a consortium: A second possibility is for faith-based organizations to apply in a consortium with one or more partners.  The consortium would allow for a division of responsibility consistent with each organization's principles.  Again, as long as clients have timely access to all required services, different organizations could divide up the services provided.
  • Notify grantor: A third possibility in some circumstances would be for the grantee to notify the federal program office responsible for the grant if a client’s needs or circumstances may require services, including referrals, to which the organization has a  religious objection.  It would then be the federal agency's responsibility to follow through with the needed services, or, if appropriate, transfer the case to another provider.

ACF will consider any combination of these approaches and is open to considering other approaches that would accomplish the goal of ensuring that people have access to a full range of services while enabling qualified faith-based organizations to participate in the delivery of those services in a manner consistent with their principles. 

The United States has a unique history of providing a safe haven for people of all faiths while also upholding both the free exercise of religion and the non-establishment of religion, as basic Constitutional principles.  In the tradition consistent with this history, the administration will continue to work to provide all necessary services to people in need, recognizing their diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, while respecting our faith-based partners’ values.

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