The mission of the U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships is to connect faith-based and community-based organizations with the work of the Department. As President Joseph R. Biden said in Executive Order 14015 to establish the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships:
“The American people are key drivers of fundamental change in our country, and few institutions are closer to the people than our faith-based and other community organizations. It is important that the Federal Government strengthen the ability of such organizations and other nonprofit providers in our communities to deliver services effectively in partnership with Federal, State, and local governments and with other private organizations, while preserving our fundamental constitutional commitments guaranteeing the equal protection of the laws and the free exercise of religion and forbidding the establishment of religion.”
Students of all faiths and none rely on this fundamental right to the freedom of religion. This page houses resources for students, families, educators, and communities on religious freedom, as well as related news and accomplishments by the Biden-Harris administration.
Protections for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Updated Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer and Religious Expression in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
On May 15, 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration released updated guidance on constitutionally protected religious expression in public elementary and secondary schools for the first time since 2020. This guidance provides information on the current state of the law concerning prayer and other forms of religious expression and upholds longstanding religious freedom protections for students of all religious and nonreligious backgrounds.
Office for Civil Rights Guidance on Discrimination Related to Religion
In January 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released a fact sheet on how it protects students from discrimination on the basis of shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics. As it reads in part:
“Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin against students of any religion, such as students who are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, or Buddhist, when the discrimination, for example, involves:
- racial, ethnic, or ancestral slurs or stereotypes;
- how a student looks, including skin color, physical features, or style of dress that reflects both ethnic and religious traditions; and
- a foreign accent; a foreign name, including names commonly associated with particular shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics; or speaking a foreign language.
Because Title VI does not protect students from discrimination based only on religion, such as a school’s denial of a student’s request to miss class for a religious holiday, OCR refers complaints of discrimination based exclusively on religion to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which has jurisdiction on this issue.”
Additional information regarding how the Office for Civil Rights protects students from discrimination on the basis of shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics may be found here.
“There are some schools that do a really good job teaching religious principles and strengthening students’ faith. We have in the Catholic faith parochial schools — my father attended parochial school — and that’s an important option for families that choose that, as are religious schools in different faiths. And for the majority of public schools, they teach about religion and religions, and their impact on the history of our country and our world. I think that’s very appropriate. To skirt that or to negate that as an influence, I think, would be doing a disservice to our students.”
– Secretary Miguel Cardona, in an interview with Religion News Service (December 21, 2022: “Education Secretary Cardona: ‘If it weren’t for my faith, I wouldn’t be here.’”)
U.S. Department of Education’s Religious Literacy Series
In July 2023, the US Department of Education’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships held a conference entitled, “Free To Learn: Inclusion, Rights, and Accommodations for Students of All Faiths and None Conference.” This convening followed the US Department of Education’s Free to Learn call to action, encouraging school and campus communities to enhance school safety, improve school climate, and support all students’ mental health and well-being. Sessions explored models for promoting religious literacy, rights, and obligations of schools to accommodate students’ religious needs, and strategies for preventing and addressing bullying that students may experience because of their actual or perceived religious affiliation. Participants received the latest information from the field and heard directly from members of the Biden-Harris Administration about how we are raising the bar for students of diverse religious and nonreligious backgrounds.
In 2023, the US Department of Education’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships also held a virtual event series on religious literacy to support greater understanding and inclusion of America’s religious diversity. The series is aimed at supporting public PreK-12 schools with strategies for welcoming, accommodating, and fostering inclusive learning environments for students of diverse religious and non-religious backgrounds. Below is more information about the first and second webinar:
- ED Religious Literacy Series, Part 1: Preventing and Addressing Bullying (January 19, 2023) – The first event of this three-part series specifically focused on facilitating more inclusive learning environments by preventing and addressing bullying that students may experience because of their actual or perceived religious affiliation.
- ED Religious Literacy Series, Part 2: Creating Inclusive Learning Environments for Religiously Diverse Students (February 15, 2023) – The second event of this three-part series specifically focused on facilitating more inclusive learning environments through school policies and practices, such as those related to the academic calendar, dress codes, cafeteria options, and more.
- American Federation of Teachers (ATF) Share My Lesson Webinars: Inclusive Learning Environments for Religiously Diverse Students (March 22, 2023) – Representatives from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice shared guidance and strategies for welcoming, accommodating, and fostering inclusive learning environments for students of all faiths and none.
Announcements from the Biden-Harris Administration
(May 25, 2023) White House Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Releases First-Ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism
The Biden-Harris Administration released the first-ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. This strategy includes over 100 new actions the Administration will take to raise awareness of antisemitism and its threat to American democracy, protect Jewish communities, reverse the normalization of antisemitism, and build cross-community solidarity.
(February 17, 2023) White House Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Celebrates the Second Anniversary of the Reestablishment of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
The White House issued a fact sheet highlighting the second year of accomplishments of the Centers for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships across all federal agencies.
(January 12, 2023) Press Release about the 9-Agency Notice on Proposed Rulemaking on partnerships with faith-based organizations
The Biden-Harris administration proposed rules that would restore religious freedom protections for beneficiaries of federally funded social services, including U.S. Department of Education grant programs. Nine federal agencies joined together for the rule in order to advance President Biden’s call for religious freedom and equity for all. As stated in the press release linked above, the new rule aims to “restore religious liberty protections for beneficiaries of federally funded social services, such as job training and job search assistance, academic enrichment opportunities, and housing services. These protections were rescinded by the previous Administration.”
(February 14, 2022) White House Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Celebrates First Anniversary of the Reestablishment of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
The White House issued a fact sheet highlighting the first year of accomplishments of the Centers for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships across all federal agencies.
(February 14, 2021) Executive Order 14015: Establishment of the White House Office of Faith- Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
At the beginning of President Biden’s administration, he signed Executive Order 14015 re-establishing the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP) is one of several Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships across Federal agencies. Other CFBNPs and related staff are based at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Commerce, Agriculture, Justice, and Labor, and the Corporation for National and Community Service, U.S. Agency for International Development, Small Business Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Each Center forms partnerships between its agency and faith-based and neighborhood organizations to advance specific goals, and all the Centers are coordinated by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP) is housed within the Office of the Secretary of Education.