Policy Briefs

ERLC Supports Christian Colleges and Universities’ Right to Maintain Their Religious Character

Defend Christian Higher Ed

March 6, 2018

Religious institutions play an essential role in contributing to the diversity of higher education options. A wide array of options adds crucial value for students considering educational opportunities. Faith-based institutions contribute to the diversity of academic options.

Christian institutions of higher education ought to have the same access to generally available benefits as secular institutions. As stated in the recent Supreme Court opinion in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, “This Court has repeatedly confirmed that denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion that can be justified only by a state interest ‘of the highest order.’”

Accreditation processes should not be used to favor secular over religious. Religious schools that fulfill the accreditation requirements should be accredited, as is the case with secular schools. Accreditation agencies reach beyond their purpose when they seek to pressure—or coerce—religious institutions to act in a manner contrary to their religious mission.

Financial aid should adhere to its original purpose of helping students pursue academic goals. Student aid should not be wielded as a tool to change a religious institution’s core tenets and character. Students in need of financial assistance should not be used as pawns in disputes over social issues.

It is essential that institutions of higher education are able to educate according to their mission. Christian colleges and universities contribute to the common good of communities by educating students on the value of all persons as created in the image of God. These schools ought to be able to fully participate in the public square while maintaining policies that are consistent with their religious beliefs.

We call on Congress to protect faith-based institutions of education from accreditor and state and local government overreach. Southern Baptists support the right of religious institutions of higher education to maintain their religious character. This overreach hinders the ability of religious institutions to stay consistent with their religious character, and in doing so, prevents them from serving students. Legislation must ensure that accreditors and other federal, state, and local actors are required to respect the religious mission of an institution of higher education.