Senate Republicans have introduced legislation that would stop the Biden administration from removing protection for religious groups on college campuses.
The Trump administration introduced the Religious Liberty and Free Inquiry Rule to ensure that public universities do not deny religious student organizations “any right, benefit or privilege that is otherwise afforded to other student organizations at the public institution.” Universities violating such rights risk losing federal grants under the current rule. The Biden administration, however, proposed a reversal of the rule last month.
Senators James Lankford of Oklahoma, Tim Scott of South Carolina and 14 other introduced the Equal Campus Access Act to enshrine the current rule into federal law. The lawmakers contended in a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that reversing the rule would leave religious student groups open to violations of First Amendment liberties.
“Student organizations, including religious ones, play an important role on campus and in the lives of college students,” the letter said. “Unfortunately, the proposed rule threatens students’ ability to grow and learn while practicing and observing their respective faiths.
“Students desire organized fellowship on college campuses to learn and practice their faith with likeminded students. They should be afforded the same rights as any other student organization on campus, not discriminated against merely because of their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Prominent nationwide religious organizations, such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Reformed University Fellowship and the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, recently drafted their own letter in support of the Equal Campus Access Act. “The right to assemble together based on religiously informed beliefs is foundational to a free and truly pluralistic society,” they wrote.
The proposed rule reversal is one of several Biden administration policies that critics consider a threat to religious liberty. House Republicans pushed to guarantee that the text of the forthcoming federal budget prohibits agencies from taking discriminatory action against people or organizations on the basis of a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as a union of one man and one woman.”
The call for explicit religious liberty protections in the budget comes after President Biden endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, which enshrines same-sex marriage protections into federal law in accordance with the Supreme Court’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice