(1) A faith-based or religious organization is eligible, on the same basis as any other organization, and considering a religious accommodation, to access and participate in any USDA assistance programs for which it is otherwise eligible. Neither the USDA awarding agency nor any State or local government or other intermediary receiving funds under any USDA awarding agency program or service shall, in the selection of service providers, discriminate against an organization on the basis of the organization's religious character, affiliation, or exercise.
(2) Additionally, decisions about awards of USDA direct assistance or USDA indirect assistance must be free from political interference and must be made on the basis of merit, not on the basis of the religious affiliation of a recipient organization or lack thereof. Notices or announcements of award opportunities and notices of award or contracts shall include language substantially similar to that in appendices A and B to this part.
(b) A faith-based or religious organization that participates in USDA assistance programs will retain its autonomy; right of expression; religious character; authority over its governance; and independence from Federal, State, and local governments, and may continue to carry out its mission, including the definition, development, practice, and expression of its religious beliefs, provided that it does not use USDA direct assistance to support any ineligible purposes, including explicitly religious activities that involve overt religious content such as worship, religious instruction, or proselytization. A faith-based or religious organization may:
(1) Use its facilities to provide services and programs funded with financial assistance from USDA awarding agency without concealing, altering, or removing religious art, icons, scriptures, or other religious symbols,
(2) Retain religious terms in its organization's name,
(3) Select its board members and otherwise govern itself on a religious basis, and
(4) Include religious references in its mission statements and other governing documents.
(c) In addition, a religious organization's 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, is not forfeited when an organization participates in a USDA assistance program.
(d) A faith-based or religious organization is eligible to access and participate in USDA assistance programs on the same basis as any other organization. No grant document, agreement, covenant, memorandum of understanding, policy, or regulation that is used by a USDA awarding agency or a State or local government in administering Federal financial assistance from the USDA awarding agency shall require faith-based or religious organizations to provide assurances or notices where they are not required of non-religious organizations.
(1) Any restrictions on the use of grant funds shall apply equally to religious and non-religious organizations.
(2) All organizations that participate in USDA awarding agency programs or services, including organizations with religious character or affiliations, must carry out eligible activities in accordance with all program requirements and other applicable requirements governing the conduct of USDA awarding agency-funded activities, including those prohibiting the use of direct financial assistance to engage in explicitly religious activities.
(3) No grant or agreement, document, loan agreement, covenant, memorandum of understanding, policy or regulation that is used by the USDA awarding agency or a State or local government in administering financial assistance from the USDA awarding agency shall disqualify faith-based or religious organizations from participating in the USDA awarding agency's programs or services because such organizations are motivated by or influenced by religious faith, or because of their religious character or affiliation, or on grounds that discriminate against organizations on the basis of the organizations' religious exercise, as defined in this part.
(e) If an intermediary, acting under a contract, grant, or other agreement with the Federal Government or with a State or local government that is administering a program supported by Federal financial assistance, is delegated the authority under the contract, grant, or agreement to select non-governmental organizations to provide services funded by the Federal Government, the intermediary must ensure compliance by the subrecipient with the provisions of this part and any implementing regulations or guidance. If the intermediary is a non-governmental organization, it retains all other rights of a non-governmental organization under the program's statutory and regulatory provisions.
(1) USDA direct financial assistance may be used for the acquisition, construction, or rehabilitation of structures to the extent authorized by the applicable program statutes and regulations. USDA direct assistance may not be used for the acquisition, construction, or rehabilitation of structures to the extent that those structures are used by the USDA funding recipients for explicitly religious activities. Where a structure is used for both eligible and ineligible purposes, USDA direct financial assistance may not exceed the cost of those portions of the acquisition, construction, or rehabilitation that are attributable to eligible activities in accordance with the cost accounting requirements applicable to USDA funds. Sanctuaries, chapels, or other rooms that an organization receiving direct assistance from USDA uses as its principal place of worship, however, are ineligible for USDA-funded improvements. Disposition of real property after the term of the grant or any change in use of the property during the term of the grant is subject to government-wide regulations governing real property disposition (see 2 CFR part 400).
(2) Any use of USDA direct financial assistance for equipment, supplies, labor, indirect costs, and the like shall be prorated between the USDA program or activity and any ineligible purposes by the religious organization in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and guidance.
(3) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the residents of housing who are receiving USDA direct assistance funds from engaging in religious exercise within such housing.
(g) If a recipient contributes its own funds in excess of those funds required by a matching or grant agreement to supplement USDA awarding agency supported activities, the recipient has the option to segregate those additional funds or commingle them with the Federal award funds. If the funds are commingled, the provisions of this section shall apply to all of the commingled funds in the same manner, and to the same extent, as the provisions apply to the Federal funds. With respect to the matching funds, the provisions of this section apply irrespective of whether such funds are commingled with Federal funds or segregated.
[85 FR 82133, Dec. 17, 2020]