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  /  Top News   /  How Federal Funding Is Used to Control Colleges and Universities

How Federal Funding Is Used to Control Colleges and Universities

The Washington Post reports that a group of thirty-three current and former students at Christian colleges are suing the Department of Education in a class action lawsuit in an attempt to abolish any religious exemptions for schools that do not abide by the current sexual and gender zeitgeist sweeping the land. The plaintiffs argue that by holding to orthodox Christian teachings on sexuality these universities are engaged in unconstitutional discrimination due to the federal funding they receive. The lawsuit, filed by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, is timed to coincide with the passage of the Equality Act (which I recently discussed here) in the House of Representatives and to give narrative momentum to the push to force the progressive conception of sexuality and gender upon private institutions. The director of the Religious Exemption Accountability Project is explicit that he hopes the lawsuit will ensure that there are not any religious exemptions if the Equality Act ends up being a law.

The situation is revealing in several different ways. For one thing, it speaks to the crusading impulse at the heart of progressive politics. Obedience to the current line must be total and unchallenged. Schools mentioned in the lawsuit, such as Baylor, Bob Jones, and Liberty, are not shy about their beliefs about sexuality and what is expected of students who attend. Yet, these thirty-three students chose to attend anyway and are now seeking to bend the schools to their will. These schools are a fraction of all the institutions of higher learning in the United States, but much like the Borg, progressives demand absolute conformity and acquiescence to their ideals of “diversity” and “tolerance.”

The other important aspect of this situation is why it is possible in the first place. The plaintiffs have the ability to sue the Department of Education to punish the schools they dislike, because those schools take federal funding. Schools need money and the federal government has lots of it. But it seems all the more clear that these schools have in effect made a deal with the devil. Even if this lawsuit fails, the sexuality obsessed zealots will not rest until they have crushed all resistance. If they eventually succeed, the schools will either have to compromise their beliefs, or they will have to make do without the federal money, in which case they will have to radically restructure and possibly won’t survive. 

It is likely that these schools will have to face the reality of Christ’s admonishment in the Gospel of Matthew that “[y]e cannot serve God and mammon.”

The conservative writer, Rod Dreher, has been sounding the alarm about how the rise of wokeness is going to lead to more and more of these kinds of issues for years. He notes how the students bringing the lawsuit are absurd for having chosen to go to such schools in the first place and that “[it]t’s not enough that LGBT folks have nearly every university in the country. They’re going to smash the few Christians holdouts.”

While Dreher is right to be concerned about the situation, he fails to mention that there is a simple, though that is not to say easy, solution; schools that do not accept federal money cannot be blackmailed with it to change their beliefs.

This is obviously not an easy way to solve the problem, but it is already being done by highly principled schools that have for decades sought to preserve their independence, even though it made things more difficult. There are only a handful of schools that do not take any federal money, with the largest and best known being Hillsdale College in Michigan and Grove City College in western Pennsylvania.

It likely will not surprise readers to learn that both institutions are intimately connected to the Austrian tradition. The desk of Ludwig von Mises is located at Hillsdale College, and its economics department emphasizes the “Austrian School of Economics (especially as found in the writings of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich A. Hayek).” Similarly, Grove City is a bastion of Austrian economics. Not only are several professors there associated with the Mises Institute, such as Jeff Herbener, but it also houses a very large collection of Mises’s papers.

These schools do not receive any federal money, and students who attend cannot utilize any federal grants or federally backed student loans. This situation arose as a result of lawsuits in the 1980s that led to the passage of a law mandating that schools must abide by federal law if they receive federal funding. Choosing principle over expediency, a small handful of schools sacrificed their access to the federal feeding trough to maintain their independence and hold true to their beliefs.

The Mises Institute has wisely joined this small handful of schools in choosing to not allow the students of its new graduate school program to receive government funding of any kind. 

As I recently argued, the state is necessarily hostile to Christianity, because it is a rival religion that opposes the political religion of the state. Conservatives and Christians such as Dreher are increasingly aware of this hostility, but unless they do more to sever themselves from the federal government’s all-encompassing embrace, they will soon realize it is too late to escape with either their beliefs or institutions intact.

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