Missouri Attorney General Bailey and 21 other states directed a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, urging his department to retain a provision that compels public universities to comply with the First Amendment or else lose grant funding – a provision put in place to protect religious groups on campuses nationwide. The Biden Administration is threatening to rescind this protection.
“As Attorney General, I will protect the Constitution and Missourians’ right to religious liberty, which is explicitly enshrined in the First Amendment,” said Attorney General Bailey. “The First Amendment is not up for debate – the Biden Administration doesn’t get to play games with the right of students to express their views on their college campuses. My office is putting President Biden and Secretary Cardona on notice that we will use every legal mechanism available to us to defend the fundamental right to religious liberty.”
The existing rule, established by the Trump Administration 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 attorneys general argue that student religious organizations are worthy of protection. “The religious practice of student groups and individuals is under immense fire at universities,” they assert in the letter. “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,” the letter says. “That is wrong.”
Joining Attorney General Bailey in sending the letter are the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.