Biden Admin Looks To Repeal Trump-Era Religious Protection for Students

President Joe Biden / Getty Images
February 22, 2023

The Biden administration is preparing to revoke a Trump-era religious protection for university students, calling the rule "unduly burdensome."

The Department of Education announced Tuesday that it is proposing to rescind the religious freedom section of the 2019 executive order "Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities," which requires federal departments to ensure that colleges receiving federal grants "promote free inquiry" consistent with the First Amendment.

If the Education Department revokes the rule, the agency will delegate cases of religious discrimination by universities to the courts, rather than threaten to pull grants from the institutions of higher education.

The executive order "caused confusion about schools’ nondiscrimination requirements" and is "unduly burdensome" for the department, said Nassar Paydar, assistant secretary for postsecondary education. The department insisted that with existing First Amendment protections, the executive order was unnecessary to prevent religious discrimination.

The proposed rule change comes amid a spike in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses, with Jewish students filing suit against universities for harboring anti-Jewish faculty and student groups.

A George Washington University professor, for example, repeatedly engaged in anti-Semitic rhetoric in a mandatory diversity course, the Washington Free Beacon reported in January. Jewish students in the instructor's class filed a Title VI complaint with the Education Department after she invited an anti-Israel speaker who encouraged violence against Israelis. The professor retaliated against the Jewish students after they reached out to the administration, smearing their reputations to other faculty members, according to the complaint.