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Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

Equal Treatment for Faith-Based Providers

Faith-based organizations may be worried that receiving government money will mean they have to change their mission or the way that they run their organization. President Bush is working with Congress for legislation that will provide definitive guidance on these matters. In the meantime, here is the Administration's position on these issues.

Can we use facility space on our church property to provide a Federal service, and if we do, do we have to take down our religious symbols inside?

Faith-based organizations may use space in their churches, synagogues, mosques, or other places of worship to provide Federally-funded services. In addition, there is no need to remove religious symbols from these rooms. For example, a faith-based organization may operate a Federally-funded daycare center in a church basement, or provide computer training in a classroom adjacent to a synagogue. You don't have to remove the Star of David or the cross in your building in order to deliver a Federally-funded service there. You may also keep your organization's name even if it includes religious words, and you may include religious references in your organization's mission statements.

My organization has a religious name and its chartering documents contain religious references. Is it still eligible to receive Federal funding?

Yes. A faith-based or religious organization does not need to change its identity - including its name or chartering documents - in order to qualify for a Federal grant. Nor does it need it to remove religious art, icons, scripture, or other religious symbols from its property or its publications - although all of these must have been purchased with private funds.

My organization has a requirement that the members of its governing board be members of our faith. Is it still eligible to receive Federal funding?

In general, yes. A faith-based or religious organization does not need to change the way it selects members for its governing board in order to qualify for a Federal grant. However, there may be some grant programs that depart from this general rule. For example, the law requires Community Action Agencies (organizations that are eligible to receive Community Service Block Grant funds) to have boards that are composed of elected public officials, low-income neighborhood residents, and representatives of other organizations. A faith-based group that is interested in organizing or participating in a Community Action must comply with this requirement.

If our faith-based organization takes government money, will the government secularize our organization?

No. Religious organizations can compete for government funding to provide public services without having to abandon their religious character. In fact, faith-based organizations have every right to hold, express and practice their deepest convictions, so long as any inherently religious and worship-centered activities are separate, voluntary, and privately funded.

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