(a) Organizations that are faith-based are eligible, on the same basis as any other organization, to participate in VA programs under this part. Decisions about awards of Federal financial assistance must be free from political interference or even the appearance of such interference and must be made on the basis of merit, not on the basis of religion or religious belief or lack thereof.
(1) No organization may use direct financial assistance from VA under this part to pay for any of the following:
(i) Explicitly religious activities such as, religious worship, instruction, or proselytization; or
(ii) Equipment or supplies to be used for any of those activities.
(2) For purposes of this section, “Indirect financial assistance” means Federal financial assistance in which a service provider receives program funds through a voucher, certificate, agreement or other form of disbursement, as a result of the genuine, independent choice of a private beneficiary. “Direct Federal financial assistance” means Federal financial assistance received by an entity selected by the Government or a pass-through entity as defined in 38 CFR 50.1(d) to provide or carry out a service (e.g., by contract, grant, or cooperative agreement). References to “financial assistance” will be deemed to be references to direct Federal financial assistance, unless the referenced assistance meets the definition of “indirect Federal financial assistance” in this paragraph (b)(2).
(c) Organizations that engage in explicitly religious activities, such as worship, religious instruction, or proselytization, must offer those services separately in time or location from any programs or services funded with direct financial assistance from VA, and participation in any of the organization's explicitly religious activities must be voluntary for the beneficiaries of a program or service funded by direct financial assistance from VA.
(d) A faith-based organization that participates in VA programs under this part will retain its independence from Federal, State, or local governments and may continue to carry out its mission, including the definition, practice and expression of its religious beliefs, provided that it does not use direct financial assistance from VA under this part to support any explicitly religious activities, such as worship, religious instruction, or proselytization. Among other things, faith-based organizations may use space in their facilities to provide VA-funded services under this part, without concealing, removing, or altering religious art, icons, scripture, or other religious symbols. In addition, a VA-funded faith-based organization retains its authority over its internal governance, and it may retain religious terms in its organization's name, select its board members and otherwise govern itself on a religious basis, and include religious reference in its organization's mission statements and other governing documents.
(e) An organization that participates in a VA program under this part shall not, in providing direct program assistance, discriminate against a program beneficiary or prospective program beneficiary regarding housing, supportive services, or technical assistance, on the basis of religion or religious belief.
(f) If a State or local government voluntarily contributes its own funds to supplement federally funded activities, the State or local government has the option to segregate the Federal funds or commingle them. However, if the funds are commingled, this provision applies to all of the commingled funds.
(g) To the extent otherwise permitted by Federal law, the restrictions on explicitly religious activities set forth in this section do not apply where VA funds are provided to faith-based organizations through indirect assistance as a result of a genuine and independent private choice of a beneficiary, provided the faith-based organizations otherwise satisfy the requirements of this part. A faith-based organization may receive such funds as the result of a beneficiary's genuine and independent choice if, for example, a beneficiary redeems a voucher, coupon, or certificate, allowing the beneficiary to direct where funds are to be paid, or a similar funding mechanism provided to that beneficiary and designed to give that beneficiary a choice among providers.
[85 FR 82144, Dec. 17, 2020]