Intervening to defend Department of Labor rule and provide clarity to potential Kentucky contractors
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 30, 2021) – Attorney General Daniel Cameron today joined a 12-state coalition in moving to intervene in a lawsuit to defend religious protections for federal contractors. In the lawsuit, a group of states, led by New York, is challenging a U.S. Department of Labor rule clarifying the scope and application of religious exemptions for federal contractors. Attorney General Cameron seeks to defend the U.S. Department of Labor rule and to ensure that religious organizations are not disfavored in government contracting.
“This important rule protects religious freedom and ensures that organizations wishing to contract with the federal government do not have to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs and being awarded a contract for work,” said Attorney General Cameron. “The Biden Administration is refusing to defend this rule and provide needed clarity to religious organizations, so we are going to step in and make sure that the rule receives a full defense in court.”
In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, which established nondiscrimination requirements for federal government contractors and subcontractors. In 2002, President George W. Bush amended the Executive Order to exempt religious organizations from some of the order’s requirements. However, neither the order nor its implementing regulations explained how to determine whether an organization qualified for the exemption. In December 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule to clarify how religious organizations would be exempt from some of the order’s requirements.
On January 21, 2021, the State of New York joined 13 other states and the District of Columbia in filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York challenging the Department of Labor’s religious-exemption clarification. A similar lawsuit opposing the rule was also filed by a group of organizations in U.S. District Court in Oregon. Both lawsuits were stayed after the Department of Labor subsequently announced that it intends to rescind the rule.
In their motion to intervene, the states argued that the rule provides needed clarity to federal contractors and potential contractors in their states. According to USASpending.gov, in Fiscal Year 2020, the federal government awarded $10.4 billion across 32,074 contracts for work done in Kentucky.
The coalition writes that each state is “home to potential federal contractors who may decide to enter ‘the eligible pool of federal contractors and subcontractors’ now that it is clear that religious organizations are not ‘disfavored in government contracting’ and they need not decide between following their religion and contracting with the federal government. Under the Department’s Final Rule, they can do both.”
The states also argue that their intervention is necessary because the federal government has reversed its position and now refuses to defend its own rule. “Without intervention,” the motion argues, “there will be no party in this litigation to defend the challenged regulation—even though the regulation provides needed clarity to federal contractors and potential contractors in the Proposed Defendant-Intervenor States, protects their religious liberties, encourages participation in the pool of federal contractors, and brings economic benefits to the States.”
Attorney General Cameron joined the Alabama-led motion alongside Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
View a copy of the motion here.