CNA Staff, Sep 10, 2020 / 13:01 pm
The US Education Department on Wednesday promulgated rules which formally implement a March executive order from President Donald Trump seeking to ensure that students’ First Amendment rights are protected on college campuses.
The Sept. 9 regulations require that a public institution “not deny a religious student organization any of the rights, benefits, or privileges that are otherwise afforded to other student organizations.”
Under the new rules, public institutions who receive federal grants must comply with the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech, association, press, religion, assembly, petition, and academic freedom.
Any institution proven in court not to be upholding free speech could lose federal funding, and in extreme cases could be prohibited from receiving federal funding in the future.
“Equal treatment of religious student groups,” including equal use of facilities and access to student fee funding, is now a material condition of the Education Department’s grants, the department said.
The rules also seek to hold private institutions to their own individual free-speech policies.
In addition, the rules clarify how an educational institution may demonstrate that it is controlled by a religious organization for purposes of Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in educational programs that receive government funding. Title IX does not apply to organizations that are “controlled by a religious organization.”
Finally, the rules amend current regulations that the department says could prohibit a school from using some discretionary grant programs for secular activities or services, such as teaching a course about world religions. The new rule more narrowly tailors the prohibition on the use of these grants to religious instruction, religious worship, or proselytization, the Department says.