Push back on rescinding protection for student religious groups
In a letter sent Friday, March 24, to the U.S. Department of Education, Attorney General Lynn Fitch and 21 other Attorneys General urged the Department to retain a rule that compels public universities to comply with the First Amendment or lose grant funding – a provision put in place to protect religious groups on campuses nationwide. The Biden Administration is threatening to rescind this protection.
“Today, there is a war against faith and the right of the faithful to live their lives in accordance with their beliefs,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “And this war is heavily waged on college campuses, where communities of faith can be an important part of this transition to adulthood. We must defend these fundamental first freedoms.”
The existing rule, established in 2020 to implement Supreme Court precedent, prohibits public universities from denying religious student groups “any right, benefit or privilege that is otherwise afforded to other student organizations at the public institution” because of a group’s “beliefs, practices, policies, speech, membership standards or leadership standards, which are informed by sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The Biden Administration claims the existing policy is too confusing and burdensome, but the attorneys general argue that student religious organizations are worthy of protection.
“The religious practice of student groups and individuals is under immense fire at universities,” the Attorneys General. “Religious students have greatly enriched campus communities, through charity, service, temperance, and commitment to learning. They are owed the right to freely exercise their religion, however out of fashion with an increasingly anti-religious bureaucratic regime that might be.”
Removing the rule, the letter continues, would conflict with Supreme Court rulings forbidding the government from weaponizing the government against religion.
“The department is blessing the targeting of religious groups,” the Attorneys General continued. “That is wrong.” In addition, the letter says that the rule change would impose “irreparable harm to students for no federal benefit.”
The letter sent Friday was authored by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and co-signed by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.
Read the full letter here.