Legislation would protect students from religious bias

Two Jewish U.S. lawmakers have introduced legislation to protect students from religious discrimination.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) last Friday announced the introduction of legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, whose Title VI prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, or national origin,” to include religion as well.

“All students should be protected from discrimination and harassment on the basis of their religion as well as their race, color, and national origin,” Specter said in a statement. “We need to close the loophole that allows students to be harassed and threatened because of their religion. The law specifically forbids discrimination on the basis of religion in virtually every other area, including employment and housing, and it’s about time it protects our students as well.”

The Zionist Organization of America has led efforts to bring about legislative changes to Title VI, including lobbying members of Congress.

A statement issued by Sherman’s office last Friday highlighted several incidents on college campuses illustrating the need for the legislation. In one instance, a University of North Dakota student was harassed by fellow students with anti-Semitic slurs and was shot at with a pellet gun.

At the University of California, Irvine, the statement noted that a Holocaust memorial was destroyed; posters have depicted women in traditional Muslim garb saying “God bless Hitler”; swastikas have defaced campus property; and a Jewish student was told to “Go back to Russia where you came from.”