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Photo: Alastair Pike /AFP/Getty Images

The Department of Labor is proposing a new rule that would allow religious organizations with federal contracts to "make employment decisions consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs without fear of sanction by the federal government."

The big picture: This move falls in line with the Trump administration's record of easing regulations designed to protect against discriminatory hiring practices. The Department of Labor says it's proposing the rule because religious organizations are wary of accepting federal contracts due to "uncertainty regarding the scope of the religious exemption," per existing regulations.

What they're saying:

  • Acting Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella: "Today's proposed rule helps ensure the civil rights of religious employers are protected. As people of faith with deeply held religious beliefs are making decisions on whether to participate in federal contracting, they deserve clear understanding of their obligations and protections under the law."
  • American Civil Liberties Union: "The Department of Labor just proposed a rule that aims to let government contractors fire workers who are LGBTQ, or who are pregnant and unmarried, based on the employers’ religious views. This is taxpayer-funded discrimination in the name of religion. Period."

The proposal says religious groups and companies that incorporate their owners' beliefs into their operations can hire people based on "acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets," but also "reaffirms employers' obligations not to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or other protected bases."

Go deeper

48 mins ago - Health

COVID-19 drives smell loss awareness, research

A health worker carries out an olfactory test outside Buenos Aires. Photo: Alejandro Pagni/AFP via Getty Images

The pandemic has thrust a relatively unknown ailment, anosmia — or smell loss — into the international spotlight.

Why it matters: Researchers hope smell testing becomes as standard as the annual flu shot, helping to detect early signs of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Senate passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate voted 50-49 on Saturday to approve President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: COVID relief has been a central promise for Biden, and passing the sweeping package has been a major priority for the administration and congressional Democrats.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 hours ago - Health

Why we need to know COVID's origins

The WHO's headquarters in Geneva. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Geopolitical tensions are foiling efforts to get to the bottom of how COVID-19 originated.

Why it matters: Insights into how COVID-19 began can help us prevent future pandemics — especially if it involved any kind of leak or accident at a virology lab.

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