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e-CFR data is current as of July 2, 2020

Title 7Subtitle APart 16 → §16.4


Title 7: Agriculture
PART 16—EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS


§16.4   Responsibilities of participating organizations.

(a) Any organization that participates in a program funded by USDA financial assistance shall not, in providing services, discriminate against a current or prospective program beneficiary on the basis of religion, religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to attend or participate in a religious practice. However, an organization that participates in a program funded by indirect financial assistance need not modify its program activities to accommodate a beneficiary who chooses to expend the indirect aid on the organization's program.

(b) Organizations that receive USDA direct assistance under any USDA program may not engage in explicitly religious activities, including activities that involve overt religious content such as worship, religious instruction, or proselytization, as part of the programs or services supported with USDA direct assistance. If an organization conducts such activities, the activities must be offered separately, in time or location, from the programs or services supported with USDA direct assistance, and participation must be voluntary for beneficiaries of the programs or services supported with such USDA direct assistance.

(c) Nothing in paragraphs (a) or (b) shall be construed to prevent religious organizations that receive USDA assistance under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, 42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq., the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, 42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq., or USDA international school feeding programs from considering religion in their admissions practices or from imposing religious attendance or curricular requirements at their schools.

(d)(1) USDA direct assistance may be used for the acquisition, construction, or rehabilitation of structures only to the extent that those structures are used for conducting USDA programs and activities and only 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 explicitly religious activities, USDA direct 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 assistance funds for equipment, supplies, labor, indirect costs, and the like shall be prorated between the USDA program or activity and any use for other 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.

(e) USDA direct assistance under any USDA program may not be used for explicitly religious activities, speech, and materials generated or controlled by the administrators, instructors, or officials of the organization receiving USDA direct assistance.

(f) Beneficiary protections: Written notice. (1) Faith-based organizations that receive USDA direct assistance under any domestic USDA program must give written notice in a manner prescribed by USDA to all beneficiaries and prospective beneficiaries of their right to be referred to an alternate provider when available. The written notice must be given in a manner prescribed by USDA, and state that:

(i) The organization may not discriminate against beneficiaries on the basis of religion or religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to attend or participate in a religious practice;

(ii) The organization may not require beneficiaries to attend or participate in any explicitly religious activities that are offered by the organization, and any participation by beneficiaries in such activities must be purely voluntary;

(iii) The organization must separate in time or location any privately funded explicitly religious activities from activities supported by direct Federal financial assistance;

(iv) If a beneficiary objects to the religious character of the organization, the organization will undertake reasonable efforts to identify and refer the beneficiary to an alternate provider to which the prospective beneficiary has no objection; the organization may not be able to guarantee, however, that in every instance, an alternate provider will be available; and

(v) Beneficiaries may report violations of these protections (including denials of services or benefits) by an organization to, USDA (or, the intermediary, if applicable).

(2) This written notice must be given to beneficiaries prior to the time they enroll in the program or receive services from such programs. When the nature of the service provided or exigent circumstances make it impracticable to provide such written notice in advance of the actual service, service providers must advise beneficiaries of their protections at the earliest available opportunity.

(g) Beneficiary protections: Referral requirements. If a beneficiary or prospective beneficiary of a domestic social services program supported by USDA objects to the religious character of an organization that provides services under the program, that organization must promptly undertake reasonable efforts to identify and refer the beneficiary to an alternate provider, within reasonable geographic proximity to the provider, if available, to which the prospective beneficiary has no objection. In making the referral, the organization shall comply with all applicable privacy laws and regulations.

(1) A referral may be made to another faith-based organization, if the beneficiary has no objection to that provider. But if the beneficiary requests a secular provider, and a secular provider is available, then a referral must be made to that provider.

(2) Except for services provided by telephone, Internet, or similar means, the referral must be to an alternate provider that is in reasonable geographic proximity to the organization making the referral and that offers services that are similar in substance and quality to those offered by the organization, if one is available. The alternate provider also should have the capacity to accept additional clients, if one with capacity to accept additional clients is available.

(3) If the organization determines that it is unable to identify an alternate provider, the organization shall promptly notify the awarding entity, and the awarding entity shall determine whether there is any other suitable alternate provider to which the beneficiary may be referred. An intermediary that receives a request for assistance in identifying an alternate provider may request assistance from USDA or a State or local government receiving USDA direct assistance.

(4) In some cases, USDA may require that the awarding entity provide the organization with information regarding alternate providers. Such information regarding alternative providers should include providers (including secular organizations) within a reasonable geographic proximity that offer services that are similar in substance and quality and that would reasonably be expected to have the capacity to accept additional clients, provided any such organizations exist. An organization which relies on such information provided by the awarding entity shall be considered to have undertaken reasonable efforts to identify an alternate provider under this subpart.

(h) The requirements in paragraphs (b) through (g) of this section do not apply where USDA funds or benefits are provided to religious organizations as a result of a genuine and independent private choice of a beneficiary or through other indirect funding mechanisms, provided the religious organizations otherwise satisfy the requirements of the program.

[69 FR 41382, July 9, 2004. Redesignated and amended at 81 FR 19413, Apr. 4, 2016]

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