Biden Administration Poised to Reverse Trump Protections for Campus Faith Groups
The Biden administration announced Thursday it intends to propose rescinding aspects of a Trump-era rule that has asserted the First Amendment right to federal funding of campus faith-based organizations that affirm pro-life values and a belief in traditional marriage.
Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., deputy assistant secretary for Higher Education Programs, wrote in a blog post at the website of the U.S. Education Department that while the Constitution “provides strong protections for students to express and practice their faith on public college and university campuses,” religious groups receiving federal funding must still “comply with applicable Federal statutes and regulations that prohibit discrimination.”
Cooper continued by saying the Biden Education Department plans to review the Trump administration’s “Free Inquiry Rule,” which reinforced “First Amendment freedoms such as the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion” on college campuses:
Santana High School students embrace during a community prayer service, after the shooting rampage at the high school earlier in the morning, killing two and wounding 13 others, March 5, 2001 at a local church in Santee, near San Diego. The alleged gunman, 15 year-old Charles Andrew Williams, a student at the high school, was arrested at the scene and is expected to be charged as an adult for murder (Photo by David McNew/Newsmakers via Getty).
The review, she added, will encompass “several key elements, including First Amendment protections, nondiscrimination requirements, and the promotion of inclusive learning environments for all students.”
Cooper said once a notice of proposed rulemaking is published, the public will be able to comment through the formal “notice-and-comment period.”
The Washington Timesnoted that while serving as president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, Cooper stated America’s post-secondary education system “has operated on policies, practices, and assumptions that inherently privilege white, wealthy, and well-connected students over their peers.”
“The insidious policies that disadvantage Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other students of color, as well as low- and moderate-income students do more than limit their potential,” she added. “They limit the potential of our higher education system to be a true arbiter of social mobility and justice.”
As the Times reported, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and American Atheists filed a joint lawsuit against the Trump administration on former President Donald Trump’s last day in office, challenging the Free Inquiry Rule:
A protester holds a sign June 27, 2005 in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. A sharply divided Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government land, but drew the line on displays inside courthouses, saying they violated the doctrine of separation of church and state (KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images).
“We anticipate that the Biden administration will agree with us that discrimination has no place in our public colleges and universities – even if religion is used to justify it,” Richard B. Katskee, vice president and legal director of Americans United, stated about the proposed rule change.