WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today applauded the finalization by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to clarify the equal participation of religious organizations as federal contractors. After six years of questions as to the scope of the religious exemption for entities that seek to contract with the federal government, today’s rule makes clear that “the religious exemption allows religious contractors not only to prefer in employment individuals who share their religion, but also to condition employment on acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets as understood by the employing contractor.”
“Religious entities, just like thousands of non-religious entities, provide services and fulfill the needs of many in our communities. No one should be prohibited from participating in the public square because of their faith, and the government should not dictate certain conditions of participation on entities simply because of their faith,” said Lankford. “This clarification is a significant step to ensure that religious organizations, many of which are small non-profits, will not have to surrender their sincerely held religious beliefs, including those related to employment decisions, to help their neighbor. This final rule makes clear that you can live your faith and still receive equal opportunity from the Department of Labor to serve as a federal contractor. Our government should serve everyone equally under the law, and no one should have to abandon their faith to partner with their own government.”
In 2017, the Supreme Court affirmed 7-2 in the Trinity Lutheran case that all organizations, whether religiously based or not, are constitutionally guaranteed the same right and opportunity to participate with the government. Lankford issued a statement in August 2019 when the OFCCP announced plans to clarify the civil rights protections for religious organizations that contract with the federal government.
Lankford has been the leader in the United States Senate in pursuing the goals of advancing religious liberty at home and abroad. Lankford has championed legislation to ensure that health care professionals are not forced to act contrary to their religious or moral beliefs, has worked to ensure that religious student groups have the same rights and privileges as secular student groups on college campuses and worked to ensure that houses of worship are eligible for FEMA disaster aid. During the pandemic, Lankford worked to ensure faith-based entities were protected and eligible for relief under the CARES Act and successfully advocated for a provision to increase charitable giving. Most recently, he signed an amicus brief in the Danville Christian Academy v. Beshear case to ensure that religious institutions are not unfairly restricted as compared to secular entities when it comes to public health regulations.
In his ongoing international religious freedom work, Lankford led a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Pompeo and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Brownback to ask them to consider recommendations made by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) when determining designations of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) and placement on the Special Watch List (SWL). Earlier this year, Lankford applauded President Trump’s Executive Order to advance international religious freedom and praised the release of the 2019 International Religious Freedom (IRF) Report. Lankford has also called for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws, and has ensured that religious freedom is part of our trade negotiations with other nations.
Lankford is chairman of the Senate Values Action Team and co-chair of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combatting Anti-Semitism.