USAID's directive on conscience gives church officials glimmer of hope
Published: March 23, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A little publicized policy directive from the U.S. Agency for International Development is getting a closer look from religious freedom advocates and promoters of conscience protections in federal law. Months in development, the directive offers one of the broadest and most inclusive conscience protections to faith-based organizations funded by USAID to operate AIDS treatment and prevention programs and other health care programs around the world, Catholic observers said. Specifically, the directive bans discrimination against faith-based and other organizations that decide not to engage in activities that violate religious or moral principles, such as condom distribution and education in their use. Advocates of religious freedom see the language in the agency's acquisition and assistance policy directive as a model that could be implemented in all government programs, contracts and grants with minor changes depending on the programs individual agencies oversee. Such language could pertain to federal programs ranging from health care reform to assistance to human trafficking victims. The directive implements the conscience protection mandate that was included in the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008. The law authorized up to $48 billion over five years to combat malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. It includes funding for the widely lauded President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program, known as PEPFAR. The law, which expires at the end of fiscal year 2013, passed handily in both houses of Congress, both then under the control of Democrats: 308-116 in the House and 80-16 in the Senate.
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