42 U.S. Code § 604a - Services provided by charitable, religious, or private organizations

(a) In general
(1) State options
A State may—
(A) administer and provide services under the programs described in subparagraphs (A) and (B)(i) of paragraph (2) through contracts with charitable, religious, or private organizations; and
(B) provide beneficiaries of assistance under the programs described in subparagraphs (A) and (B)(ii) of paragraph (2) with certificates, vouchers, or other forms of disbursement which are redeemable with such organizations.
(2) Programs described
The programs described in this paragraph are the following programs:
(A) A State program funded under this part (as amended by section 103(a) of this Act).
(B) Any other program established or modified under title I or II of this Act, that—
(i) permits contracts with organizations; or
(ii) permits certificates, vouchers, or other forms of disbursement to be provided to beneficiaries, as a means of providing assistance.
(b) Religious organizations
The purpose of this section is to allow States to contract with religious organizations, or to allow religious organizations to accept certificates, vouchers, or other forms of disbursement under any program described in subsection (a)(2) of this section, on the same basis as any other nongovernmental provider without impairing the religious character of such organizations, and without diminishing the religious freedom of beneficiaries of assistance funded under such program.
(c) Nondiscrimination against religious organizations
In the event a State exercises its authority under subsection (a) of this section, religious organizations are eligible, on the same basis as any other private organization, as contractors to provide assistance, or to accept certificates, vouchers, or other forms of disbursement, under any program described in subsection (a)(2) of this section so long as the programs are implemented consistent with the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. Except as provided in subsection (k) of this section, neither the Federal Government nor a State receiving funds under such programs shall discriminate against an organization which is or applies to be a contractor to provide assistance, or which accepts certificates, vouchers, or other forms of disbursement, on the basis that the organization has a religious character.
(d) Religious character and freedom
(1) Religious organizations
A religious organization with a contract described in subsection (a)(1)(A) of this section, or which accepts certificates, vouchers, or other forms of disbursement under subsection (a)(1)(B) of this section, shall retain its independence from Federal, State, and local governments, including such organization’s control over the definition, development, practice, and expression of its religious beliefs.
(2) Additional safeguards
Neither the Federal Government nor a State shall require a religious organization to—
(A) alter its form of internal governance; or
(B) remove religious art, icons, scripture, or other symbols;
in order to be eligible to contract to provide assistance, or to accept certificates, vouchers, or other forms of disbursement, funded under a program described in subsection (a)(2) of this section.
(e) Rights of beneficiaries of assistance
(1) In general
If an individual described in paragraph (2) has an objection to the religious character of the organization or institution from which the individual receives, or would receive, assistance funded under any program described in subsection (a)(2) of this section, the State in which the individual resides shall provide such individual (if otherwise eligible for such assistance) within a reasonable period of time after the date of such objection with assistance from an alternative provider that is accessible to the individual and the value of which is not less than the value of the assistance which the individual would have received from such organization.
(2) Individual described
An individual described in this paragraph is an individual who receives, applies for, or requests to apply for, assistance under a program described in subsection (a)(2) of this section.
(f) Employment practices
A religious organization’s exemption provided under section 2000e–1 of this title regarding employment practices shall not be affected by its participation in, or receipt of funds from, programs described in subsection (a)(2) of this section.
(g) Nondiscrimination against beneficiaries
Except as otherwise provided in law, a religious organization shall not discriminate against an individual in regard to rendering assistance funded under any program described in subsection (a)(2) of this section on the basis of religion, a religious belief, or refusal to actively participate in a religious practice.
(h) Fiscal accountability
(1) In general
Except as provided in paragraph (2), any religious organization contracting to provide assistance funded under any program described in subsection (a)(2) of this section shall be subject to the same regulations as other contractors to account in accord with generally accepted auditing principles for the use of such funds provided under such programs.
(2) Limited audit
If such organization segregates Federal funds provided under such programs into separate accounts, then only the financial assistance provided with such funds shall be subject to audit.
(i) Compliance
Any party which seeks to enforce its rights under this section may assert a civil action for injunctive relief exclusively in an appropriate State court against the entity or agency that allegedly commits such violation.
(j) Limitations on use of funds for certain purposes
No funds provided directly to institutions or organizations to provide services and administer programs under subsection (a)(1)(A) of this section shall be expended for sectarian worship, instruction, or proselytization.
(k) Preemption
Nothing in this section shall be construed to preempt any provision of a State constitution or State statute that prohibits or restricts the expenditure of State funds in or by religious organizations.

Source

(Pub. L. 104–193, title I, § 104,Aug. 22, 1996, 110 Stat. 2161.)
References in Text

Section 103(a) of this Act, referred to in subsec. (a)(2)(A), means section 103(a) ofPub. L. 104–193, which enacted this part and struck out former part A of this subchapter, except for section 618. For complete classification of section 103 (a) to the Code, see Tables.
Titles I and II of this Act, referred to in subsec. (a)(2)(B), means titles I and II of Pub. L. 104–193, Aug. 22, 1996, 110 Stat. 2110, 2185. For complete classification of these titles to the Code, see Tables.
Codification

Section was enacted as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, and not as part of the Social Security Act which comprises this chapter.
Effective Date

Section effective July 1, 1997, with transition rules relating to State options to accelerate such date, rules relating to claims, actions, and proceedings commenced before such date, rules relating to closing out of accounts for terminated or substantially modified programs and continuance in office of Assistant Secretary for Family Support, and provisions relating to termination of entitlement under AFDC program, see section 116 ofPub. L. 104–193, as amended, set out as a note under section 601 of this title.

 

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