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Can people who receive Federally-funded services from us also participate in our religious activities?


Yes, provided that a few rules are followed. It may be that some people have chosen to receive services from your organization because it is faith-based, and they will be eager to participate. But faith-based organizations that receive direct Federal aid may not require program participants to attend or take part in any religious activities

Although you may invite participants to join in your organization’s religious services or events, you should be careful to reassure them that they can receive government-funded help even if they do not participate in these activities, and their decision will have no bearing on the services they receive. In short, any participation by recipients of taxpayer-funded services in such religious activities must be completely voluntary. 

For example, a church that receives direct government aid to provide shelter to homeless individuals may not require those individuals to attend a Bible study or participate in a prayer preceding a meal as part of the government-funded services they provide. But they may invite those individuals to join them, so long as they make clear that their participation is optional.

Source: Guidance to Faith-Based and Community Organizations on Partnering with the Federal Government (published by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives 2002)

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Last Updated: 4/28/2008