EPPC Scholars and Others Submit Public Comments Opposing ED’s Proposed Rescission of Religious Student Group Protections

March 27, 2023

On Friday, March 24, 2023, EPPC scholars Rachel N. Morrison and Natalie Dodson submitted a public comment opposing the U.S. Department of Education (ED) proposed rule, “Direct Grant Programs, State Administered Formula Grant Programs,” which would rescind two provisions relating to First Amendment protections for religious student groups. 

The two provisions require grantees, states, and subgrantees that are public institutions to provide equal campus access for religious student groups. The provisions were a response to discrimination many religious student groups faced at public institutions of higher education. They explain the First Amendment protections for the religious student groups and the constitutional obligations of the institutions, providing benefit to both students and college and university administrators. Yet, ED proposes rescinding those provisions. 

The EPPC scholars explained in their comment, 

The proposed rescission gratuitously targets religious student groups.… The Department claims it “has not observed that [the provisions] have meaningfully increased protections of First Amendment rights for religious student organizations,” yet it has failed to do its due diligence of researching and crediting the effectiveness of the provisions. ED provides unspecified claims that the provisions cause confusion, but fails to acknowledge that rescinding the provisions will actually cause confusion and harm religious student groups, colleges and universities, and campus communities. ED fails to explain why rescission is needed, making its proposal unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious. 

The scholars urged ED to withdraw proposed rule and protect equal campus access for religious student groups of all faiths. 

A diverse group of students, religious student group organizations, First Amendment scholars, and legal and policy experts also submitted comments responding to HHS’s proposal. 

About the EPPC comment signers: 

Rachel N. Morrison, J.D., is an EPPC Fellow, director of EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project, and former attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

Natalie Dodson is a Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Associate and member of EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project

Other organizations submitting comments on the proposed rule include: 

Experts, including the following, also responded to ED’s request for information relating to First Amendment rights and free speech policies on campus for institutions of higher education: 

Most Read

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Sign up to receive EPPC's biweekly e-newsletter of selected publications, news, and events.


Your support impacts the debate on critical issues of public policy.

Donate today

More in HHS Accountability Project