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Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

OCR ensures that recipients of financial assistance from OJP, OVW, and COPS comply with Federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment and delivery of services or benefits based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, and disability.
About OCR
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Partnerships with Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Organizations

Federal law protects the free exercise of religion by Americans and their organizations, and generally prohibits the Federal government from substantially burdening that exercise. The documents below are examples of guidance from the President of the United States and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that outline legal protections for faith-based or religious organizations and beneficiaries of their programs and services:

These guidance documents establish several important principles, including:

  • Faith-based or religious organizations are eligible, on the same basis as any other organization, to participate in any DOJ program for which they are otherwise eligible.
  • A faith-based or religious organization that receives financial assistance from DOJ will retain its independence from government, and may continue to carry out its mission, including the practice and expression of its religious beliefs, as long as it does not use financial assistance from DOJ to support any explicitly religious activities, including activities that involve overt religious content such as worship, religious instruction, or proselytization.
  • Faith-based or religious organizations receiving financial assistance from DOJ do not forfeit their exemption from the Federal prohibition on employment discrimination on the basis of religion set forth in Section 702(a) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1(a). If a faith-based organization is receiving funding under a DOJ program that contains an independent statutory provision prohibiting discrimination in employment based on religion, DOJ has determined that on a case-by-case basis, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act may allow the faith-based or religious organization to hire based on religion. Click here for more information.
  • Any organization providing social services supported with financial assistance from DOJ, or conducting outreach activities related to such services, shall not discriminate against a program beneficiary on the basis of religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to attend or participate in a religious practice.
  • Any organization providing social services supported by financial assistance from DOJ must give written notice to beneficiaries and prospective beneficiaries of certain civil rights protections. Click here for a sample written notice of beneficiary protections.
  • Any privately funded explicitly religious activities by an organization receiving financial assistance from DOJ must be offered separately, in time or location, from the programs or services funded with direct DOJ financial assistance. Additionally, participation in privately funded explicitly religious activities must be voluntary for beneficiaries of the programs or services funded with DOJ financial assistance.
  • Neither DOJ nor any State or local government receiving funds under any DOJ program shall, in the selection of service providers, discriminate for or against an organization on the basis of the organization's religious character, motives, or affiliation, or lack thereof.
  • DOJ is not precluded from making an accommodation for religious exercise with respect to one or more DOJ program requirements on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States.

OCR enforces the DOJ regulation “Partnerships with Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Organizations,” found at 28 C.F. R. Part 38, which prohibits the type of discrimination described above. Any faith-based or religious organization that believes it has been discriminated against by a DOJ recipient regarding a subaward may submit a complaint to OCR.

OCR recommends including the following information when filing your complaint:

  1. Your name and contact information, including a phone number and email address, if available;
  2. The name and address of the faith-based or religious organization subject to the alleged discrimination;
  3. The name and address of the entity that allegedly discriminated against the faith-based or religious organization;
  4. The exact date when the alleged discrimination took place or was discovered;
  5. A detailed description of the alleged discrimination and why you believe it was based on religion;
  6. A list of any people whom we might contact for additional information to support or clarify your complaint; and
  7. Copies of records or other documentary evidence.

Potential complainants are encouraged to review the documents above, including the regulation at 28 C.F.R. Part 38, and can find information about how to file a complaint with OCR on its website.

Date Created: June 2, 2023