Childhood is difficult enough, but it’s made even more difficult when there are forces in our public educational system that work against faith and the values and principles parents have been teaching their children. That’s why FACT and its legislative arm, Family Action of Tennessee, have taken an interest over the years in protecting faith and religious activities in our public school classrooms and colleges.
Protecting Faith on College Campus
In 2010, the United States Supreme Court decided that public colleges could discriminate against religious student organizations on campus by prohibiting them from requiring their members and elected student officers from believing in and adhering to the tenants of their religion.
The Court’s decision prompted some public colleges in other states to enact new “non-discrimination” policies and selectively apply them to religious student organizations, particularly Christian ones like Intervarsity, Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), F.C.A, and Christian Legal Society.
But, as it has done in the past, FACT made sure Tennessee got ahead of the game by prohibiting such policies on our public college campuses before any such discriminatory policies were adopted.
FACT’s legislative arm went to work and Tennessee became only the second state in the nation, after Arizona, to pass a law that prohibited public colleges from denying official status to or normal student organizational benefits to student religious groups. To our knowledge, no other state has been able to pass such legislation given the current political climate that now exists, though Michigan has tried.
Protecting Religious Activities in Grade Schools
Because of problems experienced in a few public school systems with meetings like “See you at the pole,” concerned legislators brought the Religious Viewpoints Nondiscrimination Act that became law in 2014.
The law made it clear that student religious groups in grades K-12 could not be denied the same rights that other student groups had to organize, engage in activities, and use school facilities for their meetings. FACT’s legislative arm was pleased to provide assistance and encouragement to the sponsors and to let our constituents know about the importance of the bill.
Protecting the Conscience Rights of College Students
When FACT learned that public colleges in Georgia and Michigan (and this year in Missouri) began to expel students from counseling degree programs if they were unwilling to affirm, as counselors, homosexual behaviors, we realized that we needed to get to work.
In 2012 and 2013 FACT’s legislative arm worked hard to pass a law that allowed students in counseling related fields to make a referral of a client during their counseling internships if they could not in good conscience affirm the client’s therapeutic goals, but the fear by some legislators of reprisals by outside accrediting agencies killed the bill; however, in 2014 legislation was passed that made it clear that the Religious Freedom Protection Act we helped pass in 2009 applied specifically and expressly to decisions made by professors and department heads that burdened a student’s religious liberties and rights of conscience.
Thanks to your faithful prayers and generous financial support, we have come a long way in a decade to stand in the gap and advocate for life, family, marriage, and religious liberty in our state.