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Legal Defending Religious Students' Civil Rights


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
In hopes of protecting students from religious discrimination, two U.S. lawmakers have introduced legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include religion to Title VI, which already prohibits discrimination based on "race, color, or national origin."

Several incidents involving anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Sikh epithets have recently been reported. They include slurs, obscenities, and even physical violence against students at American schools. So U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania) and U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-California) have proposed new legislation to protect students from such discrimination.

Alan Reinach (Church State Council)Alan Reinach, executive director of the Church State Council, says the bill provides critical protections for all faiths.

"The main area that we see the challenges has to do especially at the graduate school level with scheduling -- especially scheduling that conflicts with Sabbath observance and the refusal of graduate programs to schedule courses on week nights and requiring students to attend Saturday classes against their religious beliefs as a condition of completing a professional degree program," Reinach explains.

He believes Christian students are experiencing increased pressures to conform to academic perspectives that often conflict with their biblical convictions.

"There have been a couple of cases filed around the country already where students have essentially been told to change their views on homosexuality or be kicked out of the program," the Church State Council executive director laments.

He adds that the Specter-Sherman bill includes provisions to ensure that it does not affect the operation of parochial schools and other types of non-secular education institutions. It also will not require any school to accommodate the religious obligations of students beyond the requirements of current law.