You wanna take this one, or should I?
While the above headline reads like it’s from the satire site Babylon Bee, it’s legit. The American Atheists organization is demanding that college Christian groups be forced to admit atheist members.
On its face, could the demand be more oxymoronic? More mutually-exclusive? No. Is it therefore insane? Not in the least; these people know exactly what they’re doing; they’ve done it for decades.
Let’s back up the bus and catch up, a bit.
As reported by The Washington Times on Friday, the atheist organization is incensed over a new rule published this week by the Department of Education widely seen to boost religious groups’ free speech and freedom of association rights on college campuses.
The new rule protects the rights of student groups on public campuses, even those with religious beliefs, to set eligibility rules and access campus facilities or activity funds just like other student groups. In March 2019, President Trump called for federal agencies to drop funding of colleges that violate students’ free speech.
Religious groups and other free speech advocates largely hailed the new rule. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Policy Director Joe Cohn said he hoped the “additional risk of losing federal grant money” would lead colleges to “rethink their practices.”
Last fall, a federal judge found the University of Iowa violated the rights of Business Leaders in Christ by de-recognizing it over its statement of faith prohibiting LGBTQ members from holding leadership roles in the group.
So what’s the beef? I mean, on its surface, what’s the problem?
The “problem” — as the atheists see it — is allowing a Christian group on a college campus to set eligibility rules for membership. Below the surface, is the atheists’ disdain (disgust) for all things Christian.
The American Atheists organization on Thursday released a statement condemning the decision made by Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, and of course Donald Trump.
Today, we denounced a newly published Betsy DeVos regulation that undermines free speech on college campuses and enables taxpayer-funded discrimination in the name of religion. Our full statement on this harmful policy: https://t.co/a7jk0Iu7hm
— American Atheists (@AmericanAtheist) September 10, 2020
Nick Fish, president of American Atheists, wrote, in part:
“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. That’s not free speech. That’s a multiplication of echo chambers.”
Setting aside the ridiculousness of Fish’s “ideological bubbles,” why would a religious group choose to accept atheist members — short of an attempt to convert non-believers, that is?
Conversely, why would an atheist organization elect to count “a bunch of rabid Christians” among its membership? I’m being facetious with the “rabid” reference, of course, but the point is made — by the mutual exclusivity of both groups.
“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. (Nonsense)
“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.”
Allison Gill, vice president for legal and policy at American Atheists, provided an example of the discrimination she and her organization claim 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 reject 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.”
The argument is nonsense, of course. What Gill and Fisk fail to say is the new regulation is inclusive rather than exclusive.
Under the rule, Christian groups are not singled out — meaning Christian groups are not the only groups that can set eligibility requirements for membership. Thing is? Fish and Gill know that.
The Department of Education website summarized the new rule thusly:
Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos delivered on her promise to protect free inquiry and religious liberty on campus by publishing the Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities final rule.
The new rule will ensure that public institutions of higher education uphold fundamental rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that private institutions of higher education adhere to their own policies regarding freedom of speech, including academic freedom.
The final rule also ensures the equal treatment and constitutional rights of religious student organizations at public institutions and provides clarity for faith-based institutions with respect to Title IX.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states that:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
The bottom line:
Atheist organizations have been hellbent on attacking religious liberty for decades. After the Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states, do you remember what happened? I do. Clearly so.
Atheists raced to Christian churches, demanding to be married. Do you remember atheists also rushing to Muslim mosques to demand the same “right”? Me, neither. It didn’t happen.
The fact is, there are those in the atheist community who are far more concerned with denying religious liberty than in gaining additional “rights” of their own. Period.
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