(a) Organizations that are religious or faith-based are eligible, on the same basis as any other organization, to participate in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program under this part. In the selection of applicants, the Federal government will not discriminate for or against an organization on the basis of the organization's religious character or affiliation.
(1) No organization may use direct financial assistance from VA under this part to pay for any of the following:
(i) Inherently 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 assistance in which a service provider receives program funds through a voucher, certificate, agreement, or other form of disbursement, as a result of the independent and private choices of individual beneficiaries. “Direct financial assistance” means Federal aid in the form of a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement where the independent choices of individual beneficiaries do not determine which organizations receive program funds.
(c) Organizations that engage in inherently 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 under this part, and participation in any of the organization's inherently religious activities must be voluntary for the beneficiaries of a program or service funded by direct financial assistance from VA under this part.
(d) A religious organization that participates in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program 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 inherently 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 removing religious art, icons, scripture, or other religious symbols. In addition, a VA-funded religious organization retains its authority over its internal government, 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 statement and other governing documents.
(e) An organization that participates in a VA program under this part must not, in providing direct program assistance, discriminate against a program beneficiary or a prospective program beneficiary regarding supportive services, financial assistance, 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 inherently religious activities set forth in this section do not apply where VA funds are provided to religious organizations through indirect assistance as a result of a genuine and independent private choice of a beneficiary, provided the religious organizations otherwise satisfy the requirements of this part. A religious 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.