On Wednesday, the Department of Education issued the final rule on the “Religious Liberty and Free Inquiry” regulation which protects the religious freedoms of faith-based groups on college campuses, The Christian Post reports.
In the new regulation, the department “ensures the equal treatment and constitutional rights of religious student organizations at public institutions and provides clarity for faith-based institutions” under the discrimination law, Title IX.
According to a two-page summary of the ruling, “[T]he Final Rule prohibits discrimination against religious student organizations because of their beliefs, practices, policies, speech, membership standards, or leadership standards, which are informed by sincerely held religious beliefs.
“[A] religious student organization would have the same rights as other student organizations at the public institution to receive official recognition, to use the institution’s facilities, and to receive student fee funds.”
Public colleges and universities “must comply with the First Amendment as a requirement to receive Department grants,” as explained in the final rule.
“Accordingly, the Department will rely upon a final, non-default judgment by a state or federal court to determine whether a public or private institution has violated these material grant conditions,” the summary stated. “A public or private institution must report any such final, non-default judgment to the Department no more than 45 calendar days after such judgment is entered.”
Noncompliance to the rule can result in consequences including the imposition of special conditions, the temporary withholding of “cash payments pending correction of the deficiency, suspension or termination of a federal award, and potentially debarment.”
The final rule follows up on an executive order that President Trump signed last year as he vowed to defund universities who prohibit freedom of speech.
Several Christian leaders of campus ministry groups expressed praise over the department's new regulation.
Greg Jao, director of external relations for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, stated how the regulation was essential as “certain faith-based groups” were given official recognition by some universities while other groups were excluded.
“What made the student groups who were denied recognition different? They expected their student leaders to agree with their religious beliefs. The recognized groups did not. Universities should welcome all religious groups equally, in order to encourage tolerance, pluralism and religious diversity.”
Jimmy McGee, who leads the Impact Movement, a Christian campus group that is centered on historically black colleges and universities, stressed that it is imperative for universities to support the religious traditions of students of color if they choose to support the students at all.
McGee added that faith traditions, “uniquely support and sustain students of color on campus” because their “beliefs are not interchangeable or negotiable.”
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.