Ben Carson Removes Commitment To Discrimination-Free Communities From HUD Mission Statement

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has ordered the removal of language from the Housing Department mission statement that promises to create “inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.”

In a March 5 memo addressed to HUD political staff, Amy Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, explained that the mission statement is being updated “in an effort to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration,” which was first reported by HuffPost.

The memo revealed that the new mission would read:

HUD’s mission is to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation.

Previously, the mission statement, which is still up on its website, read:

HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and transform the way HUD does business.

Thompson noted that an organization’s mission is never “static,” and that its mission statement “describes an organization’s purpose, what it intends to do, and whom it intends to serve.”

“Most importantly, an organization’s activities must be embodied in its mission,” Thompson added.

“By removing the anti-discrimination language from HUD’s mission statement, Secretary Carson is sending a message to the country that he does not take discrimination in the housing market seriously,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a statement to Newsweek.

“This latest in a series of moves by Secretary Carson to de-emphasize HUD’s role in creating inclusive communities is unfortunate—thankfully, the law trumps a mission statement, so those legal obligations remain,” she added.

As The HuffPost notes:

Under President Barack Obama, HUD made advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights a priority. Shaun Donovan, who served as Obama’s first HUD secretary, was the first sitting Cabinet official in history to publicly support marriage equality.

The agency worked to prohibit discrimination by HUD-funded housing authorities, recognized state and local laws that are more LGBTQ-friendly than federal ones and raised awareness of resources available to the LGBTQ community.

Carson has a long history of making comments opposing equal rights for the LGBTQ community. New York Magazine recently reported that under Carson, HUD has pulled projects meant to help the LGBTQ community, which included online training materials for homeless shelters to ensure equal access for transgender people.

Last month, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency responsible for processing immigration applications to the United States, removed the phrase “nation of immigrants” from its mission statement.