The American Atheists organization released a statement outraged at a decision made by Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, aimed at defending religious liberty at colleges and universities.
The group released the statement on Thursday condemning DeVos and the Trump administration.
“The regulation requires public and private colleges and universities to fund discriminatory religious groups that discriminate against would-be members. Under this new rule, the Department would especially privilege the speech and activities of religious student groups rather than applying the law neutrally,” the group claimed.
Vice president for legal and policy at American Atheists Allison Gill gave an example of the discrimination they claimed would be sanctioned under the new rule.
“If it comes out that a student is LGBTQ, a single mother, or had an abortion, DeVos’s rule would allow the group to eject the student, discriminating against that person, all while receiving funding from taxpayers and other students through the public university. Such a policy would silence dissenters and discourage students from being open about their different identities, weakening free speech on college campuses,” said Gill.
The president of American Atheists added that the rule would allow Christians to prevent gays, atheists, and other dissidents from joining their groups.
“What DeVos is really doing is cloistering off religious students from the existence of atheists, religious minorities, and LGBTQ people, and trying to force all students to remain in their ideological bubbles,” said Nick Fish.
“That’s not free speech. That’s a multiplication of echo chambers,” he added.
“If student groups want to turn away prospective members because of who they are, they can do so on their own dime. Taxpayers and other students shouldn’t be on the hook for funding this discrimination,” Fish concluded.
Many religious groups and other free speech advocates praised the Devos rule.
“These regulations hold public institutions accountable for protecting the First Amendment rights of students and student organizations,” said DeVos on Wednesday.
Critics of the Trump administration have also condemned DeVos for her efforts in trying to reopen schools during the coronavirus pandemic.