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 Cheryl Casey /

WASHINGTON, DC (LifeSiteNews) — Student societies, including Christian fellowships, may lose their right to elect leaders and draft rules.  

The Biden administration’s Department of Education is revising current federal policy which supports the freedom of student groups at public universities to choose their own leadership and maintain conduct and doctrinal standards. 

The Department is currently conducting a review of those regulations while keeping in mind the importance of several key elements including First Amendment protections, nondiscrimination requirements, and the promotion of inclusive learning environments for all students,” the Department of Education (DOE) website said in a recent blog 

The announcement, written by Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper, the Deputy Assistant for Higher Education Programs, added:  

“Following completion of our review, we anticipate publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register to propose rescinding parts of the Free Inquiry Rule.”  

The Free Inquiry rule is a Trump-era regulation that “require[s] a public institution to not deny a religious student organization any of the rights, benefits, or privileges that are otherwise afforded to other student organizations.” 

Repealing the rule could require universities to prevent student groups from maintaining standards; otherwise, they could lose federal funding. This would affect not only Christian groups, but pro-life, Muslim and Jewish groups as well. 

There will be a public consultation period during which citizens can voice their opinion on the proposal. The DOE has yet to set the “notice and comment period,” but when it is published it will be live at 

The new proposal drew criticism from the Cardinal Newman Society. 

The review and expected proposed rule is unfortunately just the latest example of the Biden administration’s animosity to the free exercise of religion, especially in education,” Jeremiah Poff, a public policy specialist with the Catholic education group, said in an email to LifeSite.  

“We are especially concerned about any attempt to narrow the religious exemption to Title IX, which is already under attack in the courts,” Poff continued.  

“While it remains to be seen what kind of revision to the Free Inquiry rule the Biden administration might propose, the Left would like nothing less than to force gender ideology on Catholic and other Christian schools and colleges.” 

Poff, a former DOE staffer under the Trump administration, explained the importance of commenting on the regulations and how bad proposals can be stopped. 

“The purpose of this [comment] requirement is to ensure that all possible perspectives and consequences are considered when drafting a rule or regulation,” Poff said. 

 “In the past, this has generally led to varying degrees of revisions from initially proposed rules to the final rule.” 

Poff warned, however, that the Department of Education is ultimately free to ignore suggestions made during the public comment period. 

Left-wing groups have applauded the Biden DOE proposal. 

We applaud the Department of Education for its willingness to reconsider this harmful regulation, and for sending the message to colleges, universities and their students that this wrong may soon be righted,” Americans United for Separation of Church and State and American Atheists said in a joint August 19 statement 

“We anticipate that the Biden administration will agree with us that discrimination has no place in our public colleges and universities – even if religion is used to justify it,” the groups said. 

The Free Inquiry rule was introduced after years of controversy about student groups, often Christian, requiring that student members or leaders not engage in homosexual conduct or premarital sex or affirm belief in certain ideas. 

Some student groups have been fighting with their universities over restrictions on who they can choose as leaders; adoption of the Biden administration proposal would make their cases even harder. 

For example, the InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, a nondenominational student group, is currently in litigation against the University of Iowa. According to their own guidelines, IGCF student leaders cannot support homosexual “marriage” or be in a same-sex relationship.  

Contact information for respectful feedback 

Department of Education 

Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ)
Department of Education Building
400 Maryland Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20202 



President Joe Biden 

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500