WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is moving to strengthen protections for students who want to pray or worship in public schools and proposing changes that would make it easier for religious groups that provide social services to access federal funds.
Nine federal agencies, including the Education Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Justice Department, are proposing rules that would reduce requirements for those religious organizations. The rules would lift an Obama-era executive order that compelled religious organizations to tell the people they serve that they can receive the same service from a secular provider.
The changes and proposed rules were announced on a telephone briefing for reporters Thursday.
The Education Department plans to issue guidance that will require local school districts to certify that they have no rules or regulations that conflict with students’ right to pray at school. It will also require states to notify the Education Department if there are complaints against a school system regarding the right to pray. The department does not have similar reporting requirements for states when a school district is accused of other types of discrimination.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said her department plans to remind schools that students and teachers have a constitutional right to pray in public schools, and that student-led religious organizations should get access to public facilities just as secular ones.
Under current regulations, faith-based providers — such as health care entities, child welfare organizations, educational nonprofits — need to give beneficiaries notice of their religious character and their right to get services elsewhere. They also have to make reasonable efforts to refer beneficiaries to another provider if the person receiving services is uncomfortable. The government relies on businesses and nonprofits — many of them faith-based — to provide a range of social services, including resettlement of refugees, organizing housing workshops, facilitating adoptions, and providing court-ordered drug treatment.
The Trump administration announced rules to end the requirement, created under the previous administration. Administration officials said it was unfair to force religious providers to provide those notices when secular providers faced no such requirements and that the requirement unfairly cast religious organizations as suspect.
Civil rights groups said the new regulations will dismantle protections put in place by President Barack Obama to balance the rights of faith-based providers with those of LGBTQ individuals and other groups that have historically faced discrimination. Critics also accused the administration of using the flag of ‘‘religious freedom’’ to give more taxpayer dollars to Christian groups.
Cheney opts against Senate run
WASHINGTON — Representative Liz Cheney, the highest-ranking woman in House Republican leadership, announced Thursday that she will not run for the open US Senate seat in Wyoming, opting instead to run for reelection in the House.
News of Cheney’s plans was first reported by the Casper Star-Tribune.
Cheney, a daughter of former vice president Richard Cheney, is House Republican Conference chairwoman, the No. 3 spot in House GOP leadership.
She has risen swiftly through her party’s ranks since first winning election to the House in 2016, and for months, she had left the door open to a bid to succeed retiring Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, also a Republican.
Cheney had pursued a Senate bid in 2014 but abruptly ended her campaign after only five months, citing ‘‘serious health issues’’ that had arisen in her family.
Remaining in the House means that the 53-year-old mother of five will maintain a Cheney family tradition — her father represented the state’s at-large district for a decade, rising to minority whip before leaving Congress to serve as defense secretary.
It will also give Cheney an opportunity to someday compete to become the first Republican female speaker.
Buttigieg’s cybersecurity chief leaves campaign
Mick Baccio, who served Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg’s cybersecurity chief, has left the campaign citing ‘‘fundamental philosophical differences.’’ His departure comes just weeks before the Iowa caucuses, the kickoff to the 2020 primary season.
The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The Buttigieg campaign declined to name the firm it has hired to fill the gap left by Baccio. The campaign also has a contract with Massachusetts cybersecurity firm Carbon Black.
Baccio joined the campaign in July, making Buttigieg — the former mayor of South Bend, Ind. — the first and only 2020 Democrat known to have brought a chief information security officer on staff. Baccio was a former Obama administration cyber official.
His departure comes as security officials are warning that hacking attempts against the 2020 elections will be even greater than in 2016 when Russian agents hacked the e-mail of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and breached the Democratic National Committee’s servers.