The college experience serves as a student’s transition from the teen years to adulthood. Away from most parental influences, undergraduates are exposed not only to new ideas, but to new world views, societal attitudes and challenges to their faith. A good Christian foundation created at home in the years preceding college can go a long way toward preparing sons and daughters to successfully navigate their college years, no matter where they attend. However, not all colleges and universities are alike, and this can be especially true of the treatment of the foundational freedoms all Americans enjoy, including the freedoms of speech and religion.
In this series, we’ve discussed some of the protections as well as pitfalls of the religious side of campus life. The cultural trends indicate increasing hostility to religious ideas, speech, and living out your faith according to your conscience. Nowhere is this more apparent than on today’s secular college campus, and even on some nominally faith-based campuses. Parents will do well to assist their teens in preparing to choose a college by talking through these issues with them, and perhaps helping them research the various schools they might be interested in, with a view toward understanding the campus climate with regard to their First Amendment freedoms. This information is also beneficial to students currently attending college as they navigate campus life and faith.
The good news is that most of these religious freedom issues will surface during the research engaged in while choosing a college. But even if the appropriate school is chosen based on diligent research, there is no guarantee that future problems won’t surface while attending the institution. But knowledge is power. Knowing one’s rights can inform an effective response and resolution of any conflict that does arise.
And if resolution is not available through available administrative channels on campus, parents and students should be aware that there are organizations (including legal firms) specializing in these issues and willing to assist in the defense of religious freedom. Some of those organizations appear below:
For more information on this subject, or if your student has encountered a situation on campus that might require outside help, we recommend the following:
ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM:
- Student Rights Handbook, K-12 and University http://www.adflegal.org/students-rights-handbook
- Hey University Students: Know Your Rights on Campus Before the Semester Starts http://adflegal.org/detailspages/blog-details/allianceedge/2016/08/09/hey-university-students-know-your-rights-on-campus-before-the-semester-starts
- Request legal help: http://www.adflegal.org/request-legal-help
FIRST LIBERTY INSTITUTE
- Rights and Resources – Schools http://firstliberty.org/category-rights/schools/
- Request legal help https://www.libertyinstitute.org/page.aspx?pid=895
FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION:
- Mission and Issues they cover: https://www.thefire.org/about-us/mission/
- FIRE’s Guide to Religious Liberty on Campus https://www.thefire.org/first-amendment-library/special-collections/fire-guides/fires-guide-to-religious-liberty-on-campus/
- Request help: https://www.thefire.org/resources/submit-a-case/ (Note: FIRE is not a legal firm, but does assist with seeking resolution of violations of First Amendment freedoms on campus)
If you have a question about a particular state’s laws affecting religious freedom on campus and are having trouble finding answers online, consider contacting one of the state family policy councils affiliated with Focus on the Family that operate in most states. You can find contact information for each of them here.