Chris Lange, FISM News
The Department of Education (DOE) on Tuesday announced a proposal to rescind a Trump-era policy that allows the federal government to pull funding from colleges and universities that restrict the speech and/or activities of religious student groups.
The DOE claims that the policy has forced the department to take on an “unduly burdensome role.” Nassar H. Paydar, Assistant Secretary of Postsecondary Education, wrote in the announcement:
[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. 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.”
Former President Trump signed an executive order in 2019 titled, “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities” which took effect in November 2020. The policy states, in part:
Free inquiry is an essential feature of our Nation’s democracy, and it promotes learning, scientific discovery, and economic prosperity. We must encourage institutions to appropriately account for this bedrock principle in their administration of student life and to avoid creating environments that stifle competing perspectives, thereby potentially impeding beneficial research and undermining learning.
Paydar said that the DOE had conducted a “thorough” review of First Amendment policies that “impose additional requirements on its higher education institutional grant recipients.” The Department determined that the 2020 policy placed an unnecessary burden on the higher education system and did not provide any “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.” Based on these conclusions, the DOE issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking recommending the policy repeal.
A 30-day public comment phase began on Wednesday, Feb. 22, and will remain open for 30 days.
CONSERVATIVE STUDENTS, FACULTY TARGETED WITH CENSORSHIP
Christian and conservative students at colleges and universities across the country are increasingly targeted with censorship, including receiving punishments for expressing their viewpoints on campuses once viewed as the last bastion of free speech and freedom of expression in the U.S.
In one of the more recent examples, The University of Idaho issued “no contact” orders to a group of Christian students in December after they expressed their religious beliefs in opposition to same-sex marriage to another student who had asked for their viewpoint on the subject. The university has since agreed to pay $90,000 to settle the suit.
Former Southern Illinois University Edwardsville grad student Maggie DeJong, who is a Christian, sued the school for issuing three no-contact orders against her for voicing her religious and conservative political beliefs on and off campus and threatened “disciplinary consequences” if she violated the orders.
The censorship isn’t limited to students, either.
Dr. Nathaniel Hiers, a former math professor at the University of North Texas was fired for referring to a pamphlet on “microaggressions” as “garbage,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom. The conservative legal group represents Hiers in a lawsuit against the school as well as the plaintiffs in the other two cases.