Perhaps more than any other sector in America, the ivory towers of academia are mourning the defeat of Hillary Clinton, the departure of President Barack Obama, and the election of Donald Trump.
For our faith-based university, however, the changing of the guard cannot come soon enough. The Obama administration’s sustained assault on religious liberty and the right of conscience, and the ineptitude of his White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, had campuses and religious charities of conservative, religious orientation struggling to survive.
President Obama threatened crippling fines if a college refused as a matter of conscience to make contraceptive services, including sterilization and abortifacient drugs, available in the health plans offered to its employees and students. The government’s foreign-assistance apparatus required a pledge of allegiance to the LGBT and “reproduction freedom” agendas as a condition for grants. Indeed, early on the administration sent a message to faith-based groups by yanking a grant to the U.S. Catholic bishops, a proven provider of quality refugee services, because they would not forsake their views on abortion and contraception.
The Obama administration also leveraged college eligibility for Title IV student grant and loan programs to coerce compliance with his administration’s contorted view of what Title IX says regarding sexual violence and harassment. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights later extended its interpretation of those prohibitions “to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.”
This move was in keeping with President Obama’s executive order providing protections for LGBT-community members seeking employment with government contractors. His edict limited the lawful religious hiring rights that faith-based organizations providing governmental services have enjoyed for generations. I previously worked at the White House and directed President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative for four years. Our office defended the rights of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim organizations to hire on a religious basis. President Obama’s faith-based office did nothing as those rights were dismantled in broad daylight.
To those groups that demanded constitutional or statutory rights of religious freedom, the Obama administration offered phony accommodations, and so the federal judiciary was bombarded with lawsuits like ours seeking protection. The Obama administration seemed to wear these legal challenges as a badge of honor. When the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Obama administration circumvented the high court’s rulings and pressed on with its purge.Obama appointee Martin Castro, the head of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, claimed in a report released earlier this year that religious organizations “use the pretext of religious doctrine to discriminate.” He went on to say, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamaphobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance.” With breathtaking speed, sacred Scripture had become hate speech.
Had Hillary Clinton been elected, the federal government likely would have accelerated its campaign of hostility toward faith-based organizations. Instead, we find ourselves liberated. President-elect Donald Trump may be anathema to many in academia, but on our campus he will find open minds and grateful hearts. The siege is over.
— Jim Towey is president of Ave Maria University in Southwest Florida. He served as an assistant to President George W. Bush and as the director of the White House Office of Faith-based Initiatives, from 2002 to 2006.