The Department of Education published a final rule Wednesday that expands religious liberty protections on college campuses and allows DOE to suspend or cut federal funding from colleges that violate the First Amendment.
Known as the “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities” final rule, it ensures the equal treatment of religious student groups at public universities, and “provides clarity for faith-based institutions with respect to Title IX.”
“This administration is committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of students, teachers, and faith-based institutions. Students should not be forced to choose between their faith and their education, and an institution controlled by a religious organization should not have to sacrifice its religious beliefs to participate in Department grants and programs,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
If public universities fail to give religious student groups the same rights as other campus organizations, such as use of campus facilities and access to student fee funding, they could lose federal funding.
The final rule also seeks to promote “free inquiry” and to protect “academic freedom” on college campuses. “Denying free inquiry is inherently harmful at any institution of higher education because students are denied the opportunity to learn and faculty members are denied the opportunity to freely engage in research and rigorous academic discourse,” the rule reads.
In extreme cases of First Amendment violations, DOE can determine a university is ineligible for future grants. Private universities can also face the same consequences if found violating their own speech codes.
“These regulations hold public institutions accountable for protecting the First Amendment rights of students and student organizations, and they require private colleges and universities that promise their students and faculty free expression, free inquiry, and diversity of thought to live up to those ideals,” DeVos explained.
While the final rule claims that universities must allow for differing ideas and viewpoints on campus, it also gives private or religious institutions the freedom to adopt their own speech standards, so long as they comply with them.
“Religiously affiliated institutions, in freely exercising their faith, may define their free speech policies as they choose in a manner consistent with their mission,” the rule states.
The rule also states that “religious student organizations should be able to enjoy the benefits, rights, and privileges afforded to other student organizations at a public institution” as well.
The final rule will going into effect 60 days after the date of official publication in the Federal Register.
By Charles Fain Lehman • The Free Beacon
The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief Thursday in support of students claiming they were discriminated against after the state of Montana denied them placement in a tax credit scholarship program because the school they attended was a Christian one.
The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, concerns a the Montana Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which allows Montanans to deduct up to $150 of their contribution to a privately run scholarship program. The state department of revenue prompted the suit when it added a rule prohibiting tax credits for contributions to schools owned or operated by “a church, religious sect, or denomination.”
A group of parents brought suit on behalf of their children in December 2015 after they were denied participation in the scholarship program because their children attended a Christian-run school. The suit made it to a state trial court, which sided with the parents; the state then appealed to the Supreme Court of Montana, where DOJ lodged its Thursday amicus.
by Bill McMorris • Washington Free Beacon
The president of the University of Notre Dame called criticism of appeals court nominee Amy Barrett’s Catholic faith “chilling” in an open letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.).
Rev. John I. Jenkins sent the letter after Feinstein, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, criticized Barrett’s nomination in light of her Catholic faith. Feinstein asked Barrett, a Notre Dame law school professor, if she could be trusted to impartially weigh in on cases involving abortion, given the Church’s opposition to the practice.
“I would never impose my own personal convictions on the law,” Barrett said during a Wednesday confirmation hearing. Continue reading
Political correctness is humbug. Wishing goodwill to all is not an insult.
By Henry E. Brown, Republican congressman from South Carolina • USNews
Earlier this month, as I recorded a message to our troops and sent Christmas cards to family and friends, I found myself hesitating before using “Merry Christmas” to wish those important to me a blessed holiday. I was brought up in a Christian home where we celebrated Christmas and its many traditions. Until recently, I had never thought twice before wishing others “Merry Christmas.” Communities across the country are abuzz with the “acceptable” way to observe this holiday season, but why should those who celebrate Christmas feel pressure to say “Season’s greetings” or “Happy holidays,” reluctant to express traditional Christmas words of good cheer?
I am troubled by the sentiment that the phrase “Merry Christmas” is not appropriate and concerned by the limits placed on the expression of the traditions and symbols associated with this national holiday. For me, Christmas is one of our most important holidays, not only because of Christianity’s influence on our nation’s founding but also because of the Christmas message of “peace on Earth, goodwill to men.” To downplay this holiday can only be construed as an attempt to minimize its origin. While the commercialization of the Christmas season floods our cities with beautiful light displays and decorations of Santa and his reindeer, we must not forget that the true meaning and significance of Christmas is the birth of Christ. Continue reading
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville warned students to not throw Christmas parties because someone might somehow be offended.
by Robby Soave • The Daily Beast
Another holiday, another opportunity for college administrators to trample students’ free expression rights as part of some comically misguided effort to prevent offense. Last week, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville issued a breathtakingly Scrooge-ish (Scrooge-ian? Scrooge-esque?) piece of advice: “Ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise.”
The diversity officers who wrote this instruction must have a lot of extra time on their hands, because eradicating secret Yuletide gatherings doesn’t exactly seem like a pressing higher education issue.
The university, thankfully, has since re-discovered its Christmas spirit, but not before inspiring bewilderment and anger among some students, as well as quite a few Republican politicians who hysterically interpret any slight against Christmas as an attack on Christianity itself. U.S. Republican Rep. John Duncan had this to say: Continue reading
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court once again affirmed that the so-called “wall of separation” that exists between church and state is not quite the edifice that liberals would like it to be.In Town of Greece v. Galloway, the court ruled today that a village in upstate New York did not violate the First Amendment in allowing members of clergy to begin town board meetings with prayers, some of which were explicitly sectarian (and usually Christian) rather than ecumenical. The narrow vote along the usual 5-4 conservative/liberal lines is bound to incite many on the left to express fears about the court trying to turn the U.S. into a “Christian nation.” Continue reading
These days almost everyone has a blog or a column or a podcast or some means of participating in the national conversation that goes on daily about, well, everything. It’s one of the more interesting aspects of the information revolution the rise of the Internet has sparked. It means everyone has a bullhorn or at least a microphone – and that has some people very, very scared.
Growing up most of us were taught that we had to show respect for what other people thought – regardless of whether or not we agreed with them. It was the “I may disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it” view of the First Amendment protections given to speech and religious liberty in the U.S. Constitution. Continue reading