Our Nation’s Higher Education Law Shouldn’t Include A License To Discriminate

This morning, another bill that allows religion to be used to discriminate started making its way through Congress. At 10 a.m., the House Committee on Education and the Workforce began debating a Republican bill that would change the federal law that governs higher education. Hidden in the bill dubbed the PROSPER Act (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform) are several provisions that would allow religious student groups and religious colleges and universities that get taxpayer funds to use religion to get around nondiscrimination policies that protect students and employees at these schools.

The higher education bill proposed by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) includes provisions that would allow religiously affiliated schools and student clubs to ignore nondiscrimination laws.

Religious freedom gives all Americans the right to believe – or not – as they see fit. But it does not give anyone the right to discriminate – especially when they are using taxpayer dollars.

The bill could:

  • Force public colleges and universities to exempt religious clubs from nondiscrimination policies. State schools implement these policies to ensure that any student can participate in campus student groups, but this provision would require the schools to sanction and subsidize discrimination.
  • Allow religious colleges and universities to claim a right to cite religion to ignore federal, state and local laws, including civil rights protections. The provision, which is modeled after the controversial First Amendment Defense Acts (FADAs), threatens to undermine nondiscrimination protections at the federal, state, and local level and could harm LGBTQ people and women the most.
  • Create a sweeping exemption that would allow religious institutions to skirt accreditation requirements, including nondiscrimination provisions. The provision would allow schools to maintain their accreditation even if they ignore nondiscrimination requirements for admissions, housing, employment or student retention.

Americans United and 51 other civil rights, faith, religious freedom, LGBTQ and reproductive rights organizations sent a letter to committee Chairwoman Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the bill’s author, and Ranking Democrat Rep. Robert “Bobby” C. Scott of Virginia to voice our objections to these harmful provisions.

Learn more about our fight against this bill and against other efforts to use religion as an excuse to harm others at our Protect Thy Neighbor project.