Republicans are at it again with yet another stupid fucking bill this week. Written by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the bill’s title is “Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform” (the PROSPER Act). Sounds like a great idea, right? It will help education etc etc…
Well, actually it is fucking BAD.
The bill is 542 pages long and contains a section called “Campus Access for Religious Groups” that adds a new provision to the law that guarantees that student groups can refuse membership or leadership positions on the basis of their identity. It states:
None of the funds made available under this Act may be provided to any public institution of higher education that denies to a religious student organization any right, benefit, or privilege that is generally afforded to other student organizations at the institution (including full access to the facilities of the institution and official recognition of the organization by the institution) because of the religious beliefs, practices, speech, membership standards, or standards of conduct of the religious student organization.
This refers to several student organization controversies that have arisen when students accept campus funding then violate the nondiscrimination policies that they are obligated to follow when they accept that funding. The groups refused to let LGBTQ students either participate or join the leadership of the organizations because they claim that those identities violate the religious tenets of their groups.
I personally feel they can take their “religious tenets” and shove them up their asses, but that’s just me.
In one case at the University of Iowa, the university recently unrecognized a campus group called Business Leaders in Christ because they refused to let a gay student serve as their vice president. These bastions of Christianity are now suing, but the university says that the discrimination violated both the university’s Human Rights Policy as well as the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
In another case with almost identical circumstances, Think Progress states:
Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, actually made it to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2010 that a student group must abide by its university’s nondiscrimination policy. States like Texas, Missouri, and Virginia have tried to pass bills carving out exceptions like the one found in the PROSPER Act, and some, like Virginia’s, have actually become law.
If the PROSPER Act is passed, student groups could get away with this discrimination and no one could do a thing about it.
Sound good? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
The bill goes on to describe how universities that implement discriminatory processes would be protected. It’s designed like other proposed bills of this nature, like the First Amendment Defense Act, which is designed to protect businesses and organizations who want to refuse service to LGBTQ people.
Republicans are just getting more awesome by the day, aren’t they? It states:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no government entity shall take any adverse action against an institution of higher education that receives funding under title IV, if such adverse action… has the effect of prohibiting or penalizing the institution for acts or omissions by the institution that are in furtherance of its religious mission or are related to the religious affiliation of the institution.
Yay for stupidity being put in legal speak! “Adverse actions” are defined as:
- the denial or threat of denial of funding, including grants, scholarships, or loans;
- the denial or threat of denial of access to facilities or programs;
- the withholding or threat of withholding of any licenses, permits, certifications, accreditations, contracts, cooperative agreements, grants, guarantees, tax-exempt status, or exemptions;
- any other penalty or denial, or threat of such other penalty or denial, of an otherwise available benefit.
Combined, these provisions would create a massive sweep of discrimination with no recriminations for the student organizations because the universities wouldn’t be able to punish them for it and, in turn, states couldn’t punish universities that discriminate.
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However, these are not the only troubling aspects of this bill. The Human Rights Campaign notes that there are a hell of a lot of other troubling aspects that should be concerning not only to LGBTQ students but others as well. Specifically, it would continue to dismantle protections for victims of campus rape.
With a bill like this eventually getting voted on by the House and Senate, who needs foreign enemies? We are our own worst enemies right here at home.