WASHINGTON (AP) — Historically black colleges and universities with a religious affiliation will no longer be restricted from accessing federal funding for capital projects, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday.

Trump said federal law had restricted more than 40 faith-based HBCUs and seminaries from fully tapping a program that provides federal loan guarantees for their construction projects.

"This meant that your faith-based institutions, which have made such extraordinary contributions to America, were unfairly punished for their religious beliefs," the president told a conference on historically black colleges and universities meeting in Washington.

Trump announced that a recent Justice Department legal opinion declared such "discriminatory restrictions" to be unconstitutional.

"From now on, faith-based HBCUs will enjoy equal access to federal support," he said.

Under a capital financing program for historically black colleges and universities, the Education Department guarantees loans for capital improvements, but funding was restricted for those HBCUs in which a "substantial portion of its function is subsumed in a religious mission."

The Justice Department opinion essentially levels the field for the more than 100 historically black schools nationwide.

Trump also used the speech to review assistance he's provided to HBCUs since taking office, including signing a farm bill that included more than $100 million for scholarships and research at certain historically black colleges and universities. Trump also relocated the federal HBCU initiative to the White House from the Education Department.

Trump praised these institutions as "pillars of excellence" and "engines of advancement for African American citizens" and said his administration is "deeply devoted" to seeing that they prosper.

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