Policy Brief Jul 19, 2018

ERLC Supports Religious Liberty Protections for Students on Public College and University Campuses

Southern Baptists support the right of student organizations to maintain core religious beliefs as necessary for group membership and leadership. In 2013, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution that states, “We call on college administrators to respect the rights of students to freedom of association and stop requiring religious student groups to accept as members or select as leaders those who do not share their core religiously informed beliefs.”

The rights of free religious exercise and assembly of students on public college campuses are in need of clear federal protection. Students do not lose Constitutional rights simply because they step onto a college campus. Public university officials abridge the guarantees of the First Amendment when they limit students’ ability to freely assemble and gather around their most deeply held beliefs.

Religious student groups contribute to the well-being of their campus and broader community. Religious groups positively contribute to the social and mental health of their members by guiding them through the common stress of college life. These groups also frequently contribute to their university and surrounding communities by volunteering to serve under-resourced areas in their neighborhood and the world.

Public universities ought to be places where diversity is encouraged, not stifled. Diversity can only flourish where students are free to assemble and act in harmony with their deeply held beliefs. Neither religious nor secular groups can exist and flourish without leaders committed to sharing and promoting the group’s message and mission.

ERLC calls on Congress to enact the religious liberty provisions in the PROSPER act. Legislation is needed to ensure public administrators are required to respect the religious freedom of all students. Student groups of all faiths, or no faith at all, should have equal access to their campus while retaining the freedom to define their own leadership criteria according to their deeply held beliefs. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce reported this bill with protections for students and student groups on public college campuses. ERLC calls on the House to schedule a vote for and pass a bill containing provisions that protect students from religious discrimination.

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