Trump Administration Delivers on Protection for Free Speech and Religious Freedom
On September 9, the U.S. Department of Education published final regulations implementing and expanding on President Trump’s March 2019 Executive Order on Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities. The final rule enhances the executive order to provide additional protections, ensuring that public institutions will “uphold fundamental rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that private institutions adhere to their stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech, including academic freedom.”
In announcing the final rule, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said: “This administration is committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of students, teachers, and faith-based institutions.” She added: “Students should not be forced to choose between their faith and their education, and an institution controlled by a religious organization should not have to sacrifice its religious beliefs to participate in Department grants and programs.”
The final rule permits the withholding of federal funds from public colleges and universities if they are found to be in violation of the First Amendment by a state or federal court. Such funding may also be withheld from private institutions if they are found by a state or federal court to have violated their own policies on academic freedom or freedom of speech. Conversely, the rule forbids the denial of federal funds to religious schools based on their “religious character,” specifically with regard to federal grant programs.
Title IX Religious Exemption Clarified
In delivering on DeVos’s promise to protect religious liberty and “free inquiry” on college campuses, the U.S. Department of Education for the first time has codified “how an educational institution may demonstrate that it is controlled by a religious organization for purposes of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)(3).” Federal law already prohibits the application of Title IX to educational institutions controlled by religious organizations to the extent that it “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.” But the new rule includes a “non-exhaustive list of some of the most common concrete factors that an institution may rely upon to demonstrate that it is ‘controlled by a religious organization’ for Title IX purposes,” which has not previously been so defined. “These regulations hold public institutions accountable for protecting the First Amendment rights of students and student organizations,” DeVos said, “and they require private colleges and universities that promise their students and faculty free expression, free inquiry, and diversity of thought to live up to those ideals.”
Student Organizations and Clubs Protected
Another important material protection in the new rule is equal treatment for religious student groups and clubs at public institutions. To qualify for U.S. Department of Education grants, schools “must not deny to a religious student group any of the rights, benefits, or privileges that other student groups enjoy.”Conservative and religious organizations are applauding this protection. Concerned Women for America noted on its website: “Clubs of all faiths bring vibrancy and diversity of belief, opinion, and experience, creating a more robust university environment to engage in the free exchange of ideas. That is at the heart of what a university is meant to be.” U.S. Department of Education Press Release, 9-9-20; U.S. Department of Education Religious Liberty and Free Inquiry Final Rule
Teachers Unions Hold Schools, Students Hostage Over Reopening
Although New York City decided to reopen its public schools in early September, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) had other ideas and threatened to strike if the schools reopened on the scheduled date, citing concerns with the city’s “safety criteria.”
Teachers unions in many cities are using health concerns related to the coronavirus as an excuse to hold schools and students hostage if their far left demands are not met, most of which have little to do with COVID-19 safety measures or education.
In New York, the UFT’s strike threat was effective in that the schools’ reopening date was postponed despite the fact that the city has a law on the books making teachers’ strikes illegal, and that New York City now has a very low COVID-19 infection rate. The union’s insistence on the alleged fears of New York teachers were enough to cause the city to back down.
It’s not only happening in New York. The Washington Examiner reports that the Detroit Federation of Teachers authorized a strike “after the school district approved a reopening plan that allowed for smaller in-person class sizes and additional safety regulations, including masks, social distancing, and optional remote learning.” A whopping 91 percent of Detroit teachers reportedly favored the strike. And incidents have surfaced in other cities where teachers failed to show up in spite of the implementation of COVID-19 safety measures, including protective equipment.
As Education Reporter described last month, the teachers unions appear to be more interested in grabbing more power than in educating children (see the Education Reporter email, August 2020). In its September 7 editorial, the Washington Examiner opined: “If it wasn’t obvious already, our teachers unions’ only priority is gaining power and keeping it. They do not care about the teachers they represent or the parents that entrust their children to public schools. And they certainly do not care about our students. The debate over reopening has only confirmed this.” Washington Examiner, (9-7-20)
The Chicago Teachers Union tweeted support for an attack by protestors on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Washington, DC home.
Twitter went aflutter after a group of protestors constructed a mock guillotine outside the home, presumably to demonstrate their contempt for the Bezos fortune, recently reported to have topped $200 billion; and this despite Bezos’ donation of $10 million to social justice organizations in June. But the buzz wasn’t only about the guillotine, long a symbol of the public beheading of King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and many others during the bloody six-year French Revolution. No, adding to the stir was the following tweet on behalf of the 28,000-member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which ironically owns millions of dollars in Amazon stock: “We are completely frightened by, completely impressed by and completely in support of wherever this is headed.…— #Solidarity.” One wonders if the use of the word “headed” in the tweet was intentional, but it nonetheless attracted a storm of negative attention, even among union supporters. TheBlaze posted a number of Twitter replies, including: “As someone left of center living in Chicago area I add my voice to the idea this tweet supporting the direction of using guillotines is stupid, scary, dangerous, & wrong in every possible way.” Another tweet read: “As a CTU member and a major critic of global wealth inequality, I am definitely not comfortable with this endorsement by the union.” Perhaps the most sensible reply of all was this: “If you’re in Chicago, get your children out of public schools now.” The entire incident begs the question: If the teachers unions were more focused on education and on helping teachers return to the classroom instead of fanning their fears, would they have time to embroil themselves in far-left political activism? TheBlaze, 8-29-20; Deadline.com, June 2020
The Chronicle of Higher Education teamed up with the Davidson College Crisis Initiative (C2i) to find out how America’s colleges and universities are reopening this fall. These organizations tracked about 3,000 institutions over the summer, and their data show that the coronavirus pandemic, with its regional variations in severity, has prompted very different responses. Twenty-three percent of schools are holding classes primarily in person and 34 percent are operating primarily online. Another 10 percent are operating online only, and 21 percent have a hybrid model involving both online and in-person instruction. Five percent of private, non-profit schools are labeled “other,” meaning that they offer unique programs specific to a specialized curriculum, such as the Apex School of Theology in Durham County, NC. While just under four percent of schools are fully open in person, slightly less than three percent are still determining how they will reopen. The data show that two-year colleges are more likely to be operating online than four-year institutions, and that “statewide decisions, regional differences, and COVID-19 case counts also appear to play a role” in reopening plans. A common practice among those operating fully or primarily in person is to require that students wear masks at all times while in the classroom or other indoor common areas. Some are restricting student visitation among dormitories, and are holding classes outside in tent-like pavilions as weather permits. One such institution is Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. But it’s not smooth sailing for all. At the University of Michigan, tensions are running high and unlawful strikes have been called over its hybrid reopening plan, which students, faculty and employees alike say is unsafe and “not well thought out.” As of this writing, one of the strikes has been settled but the unrest continues. InsideHigherEd.com,
9-16-20; The Chronicle of Higher Education, 8-28-20
Climate Change: A Convenient Truth
Jim Hollingsworth, Covenant Books, Inc., 2019
If you’re looking for an easy-to-read yet comprehensive response to global warming alarmism and Green New Deal rhetoric, this book is for you. In a series of short, concise chapters, Hollingsworth provides a commonsense rebuttal to each of the left’s attack points on our way of life and the fossil fuels that built our great nation. He tackles the left’s vilification of carbon dioxide as the cause of global warming, the fallacy of a declining polar bear population (it’s actually increasing), and shows that sea levels have been rising “at a more or less even rate since the end of the last ice age” about ten thousand years ago.
While global warming skeptics will be familiar with many of the subjects covered by Hollingsworth, the author provides a wealth of lesser-known information and perspective. He contends, for example, that the climate change movement, primarily supported by the left, is actually “capitalism versus environmentalism,” which explains why environmentalism seeks an ever more draconian phase-out of the fossil fuel energy production that has resulted in American freedom and prosperity. He writes: “All rational people are concerned about the environment and want to do all they can to protect it. But what is the best way to deal with environmental problems, more government regulations or capitalism?” He makes the case that capitalism seeks to protect the environment “because we know that it is from the natural environment that we sustain our lives.”
Particularly chilling is his chapter on the Green New Deal, which will likely be implemented at least in part over the next four years if Joe Biden wins the White House in November. Hollingsworth points out that socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who promote the Green New Deal, applaud the first “New Deal” as a great success, when in fact, writes Hollingsworth, “it got us started on the road to socialism.” Chapter 34 summarizes the Green New Deal in eleven points, which together paint a dark picture of America’s future if implemented over the next 10 years as its proponents demand.
Examples of these proposals include:
- Conversion to 100 percent renewable energy (which today equals only 15 percent)
- Shut down 85 percent of America’s power plants, including nuclear plants
- Rebuild or replace every home in America to eliminate the use of fossil fuels
- Eliminate all emissions from industry and farming
- Eliminate all emissions from transportation, which means conversion to electric vehicles including large trucks
- A living wage for all, even if they do not want to work, with mandatory union membership
- Universal health care
While observers may consider the above a pipe dream, the fact that it is seriously being proposed by the Democratic party is deeply concerning. Even if only partially implemented, or implemented piecemeal over a longer period of time, the Green New Deal would drastically change American life. As Hollingsworth asks: “Do we want to go back to the days of sailing ships”?
The book describes the incredible cost of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, not only in dollars but in terms of human health and wildlife, particularly in the case of wind turbines. While most readers know these energy sources are expensive, the author also shines a light on the fact that their ability to produce sufficient energy is extremely limited.
High school and college students would especially benefit from reading this book, as they are often inundated with environmental propaganda and assurances that “the science is settled.” The scientists cited in Climate Change would doubtless disagree, and the author provides resources where readers can find additional information about the topics covered, including seven appendices and a list of books for further study.
Also worthy of mention are the interesting personal perspectives Hollingsworth injects into the narrative based on his past life experiences, all of which make Climate Change eminently readable as well as informative.