Department of education proposed regulations – Religious freedom on campus
It is really important that the Department of Education hear from those of us who care about religious students and their organizations by February 18 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. Comments can be very short and informal.
How to Submit a Comment:
When you are ready to submit a comment, just click here.
- In the upper right hand of the page, press “Comment Now.”
- Write your comment in the large blank space in the middle of the page (up to 5000 characters).
- At the top of your comment, type ID: ED-2019-OPE-0080-0001.
- If your comment is a document longer than 5000 characters or you want to include an attachment, type in the blank space, “I support the Department’s proposed regulations 34 CFR § 75.500(d) and § 76.500(d) for the reasons given in the attached comment” and upload the longer document or any other attachment below the large blank space.
- Fill in your first and last name. Note that your name will appear on a public webpage.
- Do not check the boxes regarding contact information or a third party, but choose a category.
- Hit “continue” to go to the next page.
- Check the small box indicating that you “have read and understand the statement.”
- Hit “submit comment.”
- Thank you!
Suggestions for Writing a Brief Comment:
A. For current students, recent grads, or persons involved in religious student groups when they were younger, here is a possible message:
“I am grateful to have been part of a religious student group at _________ called __________. It made my law school (or college) experience better because _______________________. I am concerned, though, because I know this has been a confusing issue on some campuses. Proposed Regulations 34 CFR § 75.500(d) and § 76.500(d) would help college administrators and students by clearing up the confusion.”
Next step: Submit the paragraph above by itself, or add a short personal touch (which is really helpful), such as:
- Describe a problem that you have encountered or heard about from a friend involving religious discrimination or anti-religious pressure in the classroom or dorms;
- Share the positive influence that having a faith community as a recognized student organization has had on you and other students;
- Share the positive activities that your group carries out on campus (e.g., clothing drives, helping at school events, bringing speakers to campus), in your community (e.g., tutoring, legal aid), or on mission trips (e.g., hurricane clean-up, domestic or international spring break trips);
- Note the importance of having a faith community as a place to explore and express your faith during law school;
- Explain why a religious group needs to have leaders who agree with its religious beliefs (e.g., they lead its Bible studies and worship, help formulate its message, represent it to the law school community, etc.); and/or
- Choose one or two reasons from the list below of 18 reasons why the proposed regulations deserve support to add to the paragraph above.
B. For other persons (and we need everyone to write in support), here is a possible message:
“I thank the Department of Education for Proposed Regulations 34 CFR § 75.500(d) and § 76.500(d) and their protection for religious student groups’ speech, beliefs, and ability to choose leaders who share their groups’ religious beliefs. It is so important that students have a place to meet on campus with other students who share their religious beliefs. Thank you for acting to protect religious students so that they can continue to serve their campuses.”
Then easily “personalize” the message by adding an extra sentence or two from the list below of reasons why the proposed regulations are needed:
18 Reasons Why Proposed Regulations 34 CFR § 75.500(d) and § 76.500(d) Deserve Support — Because They Will (choose one or more reasons):
- Protect students’ freedom of speech and religious freedom;
- Ensure that religious student groups are treated fairly and evenhandedly;
- Give college administrators clarity for their decisionmaking;
- Save taxpayers’ money by preventing costly lawsuits against public colleges;
- Advance ideological diversity on taxpayer-funded campuses by preventing censorship of students’ religious speech;
- Teach students to respect their fellow students’ different religious beliefs;
- Teach students to listen to one another even if they disagree;
- Give students who may feel their religious beliefs are not respected in the classroom or dorm a place where they can talk and feel comfortable with like-minded students;
- Protect all Americans from reaping a society that is intolerant of minority religious beliefs and practices, which will occur if college students learn that religious speech can be suppressed at public colleges;
- Provide a practical example for international students at American colleges of what true free speech and religious freedom look like, so that they can aspire to improve protections for these basic human rights in their home countries;
- Respect the Establishment Clause which is violated when government officials dictate to religious groups their leadership standards;
- Respect the Establishment Clause which is violated when government officials penalize religious groups because of their religious beliefs and speech;
- Allow religious student groups to continue to make positive contributions on their campuses;
- Allow religious student groups to continue to serve as emotional support for students away from home for the first time, especially during times of increased stress;
- Allow religious student groups to provide a place for religious sustenance for students away from their home congregation;
- Allow religious student groups to fill a void that the state cannot fill because the state is not allowed to lead devotional religious activity, yet many students sincerely want to meet on campus with other students to talk about religious ideas and beliefs;
- Allow religious student groups to continue to give students practical experience in learning to serve others through their service projects on campus, in their communities, or at a national and international level; and
- Provide consistent protection for students’ speech and religious freedom regardless of which state a student chooses to move to in order to attend college.
Brief Background of Proposed Regulations:
For 40 years, CLS student chapters and other religious student organizations have frequently encountered problems in becoming, or remaining, recognized student organizations on public university campuses. To address this problem, the United States Department of Education recently proposed two regulations that would protect religious student organizations’ ability to remain on public university campuses.
Proposed regulation 34 CFR § 75.500(d) states (and § 76.500(d) is essentially verbatim):
“A public institution shall not deny to a religious student organization at the public institution any right, benefit, or privilege that is otherwise afforded to other student organizations at the public institution (including full access to the facilities of the public institution and official recognition of the organization by the public institution) because of the beliefs, practices, policies, speech, membership standards, or leadership standards of the religious student organization.” 85 Fed. Reg. 3190, 3223, 3226 (Jan. 17, 2020).
Would you please take a few minutes today to send an informal, brief comment to the Department expressing support for Proposed Regulations 34 CFR § 75.500(d) and § 76.500(d)? It is crucial that the Department hear from you on or before February 18.
Click here to listen to a podcast featuring Mike Schutt and Kim Colby discussing why the proposed regulations are needed.