Moody protests proposal to lift permission for religious campus groups

By: - March 27, 2023 3:32 pm

Attorney General Ashley Moody attending the designation of Sen. Kathleen Passidomo as the next Senate President on Oct. 19, 2021. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has joined with the attorneys general of 22 other states in protesting a Biden administration move to lift federal regulatory protection for campus groups that discriminate based on religious beliefs.

Moody and the other A.G.s read the initiative as a potential violation of religious freedom under the First Amendment.

“The religious practice of student groups and individuals is under immense fire at universities,” the A.G.s wrote in a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

“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,” the letter continues.

It singles out possible discrimination against groups including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which require members to affirm “the basic biblical truths of Christianity” including opposition to same-sex marriage.

“Public universities should not be able to pick and choose who has First Amendment protection under our U.S. Constitution,” Moody said in a written statement.

“These fundamental rights must be vigorously defended. We demand the Biden administration halt efforts by the U.S. Department of Education to remove protections put in place to ensure student religious groups can practice their faith at our public universities.”

The Education Department has issued notice that it wants to rescind Trump-era regulations “because they are not necessary to protect the First Amendment right to free speech and free exercise of religion; have created confusion among institutions; and prescribe an unduly burdensome role for the department to investigate allegations regarding [institutions of higher educations’] treatment of religious student organizations.”

The Trump regulations threaten to deny federal grants to schools that deny “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.”

Also signing were attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.