New Hampshire Law School Approves Student-Led Religious Liberty Group

February 3, 2023
Insider | New Hampshire Free Exercise

by Jorge Gomez • 4 min read

We’re happy to announce a victory on behalf of our clients, the Free Exercise Coalition (FEC), a student organization that promotes the free exercise of religion in higher education. The organization has been granted official recognition as a student group at the University of New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce School of Law.

Last November, the group applied to establish its inaugural campus location. However, the law school’s Student Bar Association rejected its application. First Liberty sent a demand letter explaining why the school’s decision was illegal.

In response to the recent win, First Liberty Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys said:

“We appreciate the University of New Hampshire officially recognizing the Free Exercise Coalition. It is simply inexcusable and unconstitutional for any university to hold itself out as tolerant, diverse and welcoming, but then exclude students because of their religious viewpoint. The Free Exercise Coalition looks forward to making an important contribution about the nature of the First Amendment at UNH Law.”

The group’s mission is to educate and inform students of their rights, to build back the space of religious expression in colleges and universities, and to offer student-members opportunities to support religious liberty and their fellow classmates. It is an open member coalition of religious students and their allies, all with a passion to see America’s foundational religious freedoms restored and respected.

“Too often, students hide their religious beliefs in the closet,” FEC says on its website. “It is becoming ever more counter-cultural to express them, and classrooms and cohorts have become less and less tolerant of such beliefs.”

The FEC is not the only religious group that has recently applied for recognition at UNH Law. In October, the Student Bar Association approved a request to form a local chapter of the Christian Legal Society after receiving advice from the university system’s legal counsel.

What’s more, the law school currently recognizes more than two dozen student groups, including the Women’s Law Student Association; groups for Black, Hispanic and Asian students; and groups that organize recreational outings.

Instead of censorship and exclusion, America’s institutions of higher learning should be places that foster an environment inclusive of diverse viewpoints. It’s unconscionable to treat students more harshly or unfairly simply because they express a religious viewpoint or seek to live in a way that’s consistent with their beliefs. It’s also illegal. Federal law makes clear that its unlawful to discriminate against organizations and individuals on the basis of religion.

As we celebrate this win for FEC, we want to thank you for supporting First Liberty. You’re the driving force that helps deliver these crucial victories. Wins like these are incredibly significant to those involved. They make a big difference in the lives of Americans who want to exercise their constitutional rights and live in liberty.

These abundant, small victories have a meaningful impact, because collectively, they add up to protect religious liberty for many Americans.

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