Colleges worry about implications of religious freedom rule

Feb 9, 2020 by

Proposed Education Department rule has higher ed lobbyists worried about possible loss of federal grants for public colleges over barring recognition of religious groups with membership restrictions.

Higher education lobbyists are concerned that colleges and universities could be disqualified from getting millions of dollars in federal grants under a draft Trump administration rule, which is aimed at increasing the legal rights of campus religious groups to be able to exclude gay students and others.

Colleges could face substantial penalties under the proposal, said Terry Hartle, the American Council on Education’s senior vice president for government and public affairs.

“Like any proposed rule, it’s as serious as a heart attack,” he said. “If legally binding requirements are going to be imposed on a very diverse industry, we want to make sure we understand the proposal in advance.”

In addition, Americans United for Separation of Church and State described the proposal as a way to sidestep a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the right of colleges to require student groups be open to all types of people in order to be recognized or receive funding.

Despite that ruling, the draft rule would bar higher education institutions from denying religious student organizations the same rights, benefits and privileges provided to nonreligious student groups, based on their “beliefs, practices, policies, speech, membership standards or leadership standards.”

Source: Colleges worry about implications of religious freedom rule

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