(The Center Square) – Republican attorneys general from around the country want the Biden administration to continue to protect college students' First Amendment and student religious rights.
Twenty attorneys general signed on to a letter written by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost spurred by what he called the Biden administration's threat to end an existing rule that requires public universities to comply with the First Amendment or lose grant funding.
“Day after day, we see school administrators across the country targeting student religious groups as unworthy of existence,” Yost said. “Our county was founded on an entirely different principle – that Americans can practice their religion without fear of government reprisal.”
The rule, established in 2020 to implement a Supreme Court precedent, prohibits public universities from denying religious student groups “any right, benefit or privilege that is otherwise afforded to other student organizations at the public institution” because of a group's “beliefs, practices, policies, speech, membership standards or leadership standards, which are informed by sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The Biden administration has said it thinks the existing policy is too confusing and burdensome.
The coalition believes student religious organizations are being singled out.
“The religious practice of student groups and individuals is under immense fire at universities,” the letter reads. “Religious students have greatly enriched campus communities, through charity, service, temperance, and commitment to learning. They are owed the right to freely exercise their religion, however out of fashion with an increasingly anti-religious bureaucratic regime that might be.”
The letter also says removing the rule would conflict with Supreme Court rulings and allows the government to attack religious groups.
“The department is blessing the targeting of religious groups. That is wrong,” the letter reads.
The coalition includes the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.