President Joe Biden’s administration announced last week that it would move to do away with a rule enacted during the Trump administration that protects the rights of American college faith-based organizations under the First Amendment.
The Trump rule explicitly protects college groups’ funding from discrimination for expressing positions that are pro-life and support traditional marriage.
In a post on the website for the Department of Education, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs Michelle Asha Cooper wrote that religious college groups that receive any federal funding are compelled to comply with regulations and laws that prohibit discrimination.
Cooper said compliance would be mandatory, even though the Constitution provides strong protections for students who wish to express and practice their faith.
The rule enacted during the Trump administration is called the “Free Inquiry Rule,” and it explicitly safeguards religious freedom as well as free speech and expression in American schools. Cooper said, “the rule would be reviewed.”
As she described it, the review will involve First Amendment protections, nondiscrimination rules, and the promotion of inclusive learning environments. Cooper added that after proposed changes to the existing rule are published, the public will be allowed to comment according to the law during a “notice and comment” period.
American Atheists sued the federal government on President Trump’s last day in office, challenging the Free Inquiry Rule. Americans United joined the suit for the Separation of Church and State.
Americans United’s vice president and legal director stated that the organization expects the Biden administration to accept that discrimination has no place in our public colleges and universities, even if religion is used to defend it.
When she was president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, Cooper said that colleges in America gave inherent privilege to white and wealthy students.
She also stated that “insidious policies do more than limit the potential of students of color.” According to Cooper, existing policies restrict the potential of the entire higher education system to act as a ‘true arbiter’ of social justice.