The Supreme Court of Canada severely undercut the principle of religious freedom last week when it ruled that Trinity Western University, a Christian liberal arts institution in British Columbia, could be denied accreditation because it held to its biblical belief in marriage as one man and one woman. That judicial step makes legislative efforts to protect conscience rights all the more important.
Last month, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president & CEO of NRB, joined 18 other religious leaders in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) supporting religious freedom provisions in a higher education bill currently pending action in the House of Representatives. The PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508), authored by House Education & Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), contains protections for religious higher education institutions, faith-based student organizations, and individual students.
Regarding the issue of student ministries, which have come under fire at some universities, the leaders’ letter states, “Preventing groups from recognition because of their organizations’ sincerely held religious beliefs is wrong.” On that note, the committee-passed PROSPER Act expresses a sense of Congress that “no public institution of higher education directly or indirectly receiving financial assistance under this Act should limit religious expression, free expression, or any other rights provided under the First Amendment.”
The legislation also includes language to prevent discrimination from accrediting bodies. In their letter, Johnson and his colleagues declare that students “ought to have the freedom to choose to pursue their education in a faith-based college or university, confident that the government will not discriminate against them simply because of the religious teachings of the school they attend.”
While the next steps for the overall PROSPER Act are unclear, last week’s strike against religious liberty in Canada is a warning that attention is needed to buttress this right.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: June 22, 2018