U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.), James Lankford (Okla.), and Tim Scott (S.C.) released a letter they sent to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urging him to protect the First Amendment rights of faith-based student groups at public institutions of higher education.
The letter follows a recent court filing that indicates the Department of Education is considering regulatory action related to the Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities Final Rule, which ensures the equal treatment of faith-based student groups at public institutions of higher education. In the letter, the senators raise concerns that a misguided legal challenge and potential regulatory action related to the final rule could result in changes that would fail to protect the First Amendment rights of faith-based student groups on campus.
“No student group should suffer loss of official recognition, use of institutional facilities, or access to student fee funds simply for being faith-based. It would come at too high a cost for the First Amendment and for the communities that benefit from these groups’ acts of public service,” the senators wrote. “We ask the Department to recognize the importance, and the constitutional rights, of faith-based student groups at public institutions of higher education. Current law already protects religious student groups in high schools. Students deserve the opportunity to organize under both their faith and at their university or college.”
Faith-based student groups make a significant impact in the communities they serve and provide a space for students to worship, practice and learn more about their faith. Unfortunately, over the past decade, there have been incidents in more than 30 states where faith-based student groups have lost access to school resources because of their religious beliefs.