(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost authored a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Education, co-signed by 21 other states, urging the Department to keep a rule that requires public universities to comply with the First Amendment or lose grant funding – a provision put in place to protect religious groups on campuses nationwide.
The Biden Administration is threatening to rescind this protection.
“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 existing rule, established in 2020 to implement 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 believes the existing policy is too confusing and burdensome, but AG Yost argues otherwise. “Religious freedom is neither confusing nor burdensome,” he said.
The coalition’s letter says student religious organizations are being singled out for attack, reinforcing the need for the protection provided by the existing rule.
“The religious practice of student groups and individuals is under immense fire at universities,” it says. “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.”
Removing the rule, the letter continues, would conflict with Supreme Court rulings forbidding the government from weaponizing the government against religion.
“The department is blessing the targeting of religious groups. That is wrong.”
In addition, the letter says that the rule change would impose “irreparable harm to students for no federal benefit.”
Joining Yost on the letter sent were the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.