//Carr sides in legislative struggle on religious contract exemption

Carr sides in legislative struggle on religious contract exemption

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Carr Joins 12-State Coalition Defending Trump Administration’s Rule Clarifying Religious Exemptions for Federal Contractors  

MARCH 30, 2021

ATLANTA, GA — Attorney General Chris Carr joined a motion to intervene in litigation to defend a U.S. Department of Labor rule clarifying the scope and application of religious exemptions for federal contractors. The 12-state intervention motion was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The Trump-era Department of Labor ruleprovides needed clarity to potential federal contractors,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “It makes clear that religious organizations, including those in Georgia, will not be forced to decide between following their faith or contracting with the federal government. We are intervening to protect these contractors’ religious liberty because the Biden Administration refuses to defend the rule.”

The intervention motion explains that each State is “home to potential federal contractors who may decide to enter the eligible pool of federal contractors and subcontractors now that it is clear that religious organizations are not disfavored in government contracting and they need not decide between following their religion and contracting with the federal government.” “Under the Department’s Final Rule, they can do both.”

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, which set nondiscrimination requirements on federal government contractors and subcontractors. In 2002, President George W. Bush amended the Executive Order to exempt religious organizations from some of the Order’s nondiscrimination requirements. However, neither the Order, nor its implementing regulations, explained how to determine whether an organization qualified for the exemption. In December 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule to clarify how religious organizations would be exempt from the Order’s nondiscrimination requirements.

On January 21, 2021, the State of New York, joined by 13 other states and the District of Columbia, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York challenging the Department of Labor’s religious exemption clarification. A similar lawsuit opposing the Department’s rule was also filed by a group of organizations in Oregon District Court. Both lawsuits were stayed after the Department of Labor subsequently announced that it intends to rescind the rule, a process that is expected to take several months.

In their motion to intervene, the States argue that the challenged rule provides needed clarity to federal contractors and potential contractors in their States. The States also urged that intervention was necessary because the federal government had reversed its position and refuses to defend its own rule.  “Without intervention,” the motion stated, “there will be no party in this litigation to defend the challenged regulation—even though the regulation provides needed clarity to federal contractors and potential contractors in the Proposed Defendant-Intervenor States, protects their religious liberties, encourages participation in the pool of federal contractors, and brings economic benefits to the States.”

Alabama led the coordination of this motion to intervene, which was filed today. In addition to Georgia, the following states also joined: Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.