Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office could prove to be detrimental to religious higher education. Early in November, the Human Rights Campaign released its 2020 Blueprint for Positive Change, a brief that includes 85 individual policy recommendations for the Biden administration.
If the measures are adopted — which are in line with the Equality Act Biden has promised to enact — it would violate the constitutional rights of over 7,000 colleges and universities nationwide.
In the Department of Education section, there are six policies that would force religious institutions to compromise on their beliefs to retain accreditation.
These recommendations include introducing non-discrimination policies and the revision of science-based curriculum for accreditation, in addition to mandating public notice for receipt of federal Title IX religious exemptions by colleges and universities.
The blueprint states, "The Department of Education should issue a regulation clarifying that this provision, which requires accreditation agencies to ‘respect the stated mission’ of religious institutions, does not require the accreditation of religious institutions that do not meet neutral accreditation standards including nondiscrimination policies and scientific curriculum requirements."
For religious institutions to retain their accreditation, they will be required to adhere to scientific curricular requirements that would go against their faith convictions.
Was it not our Founding Fathers’ intentions to protect the sanctity of freedom of religion?
This is not the first time the government has tried to encroach on religious beliefs.
In the landmark case of Epperson v. Arkansas in 1968, the Supreme Court invalidated a statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools.
Since then, several court cases followed suit, including Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987), in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to require the teaching of creationism. The Selman v. Cobb County School District, 449 F.3d 1320 (2006) court decision prohibited the placement of stickers on textbooks stating that evolution was just a theory, not a fact.
In addition to jeopardizing accreditation, the blueprint pushes for a public notice mandate that would blacklist religious institutions. The proposal says, "ED should issue a regulation mandating that colleges and universities once again request exemptions, and provide public notice of their request for and receipt of a religious exemption."
Higher education institutions previously enabled to be exempt from nondiscrimination requirements based on sex would be compiled on a list that is publicly available by the Department of Education.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote about the blueprint saying, "If the Human Rights Campaign achieves its policy goals, religious institutions will either be coerced into capitulation over fundamental religious and theological doctrines, or they will be marginalized."
These policies outlined in the blueprint are similar to the threatening Senate Bill 1146 that California faith-based colleges and universities faced in 2016 under the Obama administration, which would have stripped institutions of their religious liberty to educate students according to their faith.
In response, Christian universities and colleges acted quickly contacting local legislators.
Legislators received overwhelming amounts of correspondence on the bill leading to a decision that allowed religious schools to keep exemptions to anti-discrimination laws.
With Biden yet to name his secretary of education, we must act now to safeguard our freedoms in higher education. We need to take steps now to ensure that the Biden administration does not infringe on our First Amendment rights.
We can start by contacting local legislators and meeting with local members of Congress.
Together, we can make a difference for the students currently attending faith-based institutions. The future of religious higher education depends on us.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the President of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and is the author of "Framework Leadership." A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the president of one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. As president, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership at the university and is also a founding member of the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern's president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Read Kent Ingle's Reports — More Here.
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