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Biden Admin Looking To Remove Religious Student Groups’ Protections On Campus


The Department of Education (DOE) announced a proposal Tuesday rescinding a Trump-era policy that prohibited universities from receiving federal funding if they restricted religious student group activities.

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The 2020 policy, initially signed by former President Donald Trump as part of an executive order in 2019, was proposed to prevent universities from censoring the speech of religious students on campus, according to the Washington Post. The DEO’s recent announcement indicates that President Joe Biden is looking to end the policy, claiming the protections caused an “unduly burdensome role” for the department.

“[T]he Department believes it is not necessary in order to protect the First Amendment right to free speech and free exercise of religion given existing legal protections, it has caused confusion about schools’ nondiscrimination requirements, and it prescribed a novel and unduly burdensome role for the Department in investigating allegations regarding public institutions’ treatment of religious student organizations,” the announcement read. “We have not seen evidence that the regulation has provided meaningfully increased protection for religious student organizations beyond the robust First Amendment protections that already exist, much less that it has been necessary to ensure they are able to organize and operate on campus.”

The announcement came from Nassar H. Paydar, Assistant Secretary of Postsecondary Education, who explained that since September 2021 the DOE had been looking into current policies regarding the First Amendment that “impose additional requirements on its higher education institutional grant recipients.”

Paydar noted that during that time, the DOE determined that the 2020 policy had placed a burden on the higher education system and did not provide any “meaningfully increased protection for religious student organizations.”

In 2020, Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told the Washington Post that the rule protects religious students from being “forced to choose between their faith and their education” and would also protect religious universities from being turned away for federal funding because of their religious affiliation.

The public comment phase will begin on Wednesday, Feb. 22, and remain open for 30 days for anyone to comment and provide their thoughts on the proposal, according to the announcement.

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