Wrong on Title VI

Wrong on Title VI

Shrill critics of the Trump administration’s executive order against anti-Semitism on campus either haven’t read it, don’t understand it, or are pursuing an agenda unrelated to it (“Trump targets anti-Semitism: ‘Game changer’ or ‘disaster’?,” Dec. 19). The critics complain because the order aggressively stretches the prohibition of “national origin” discrimination in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to include religious discrimination — in particular, anti-Semitism.

It certainly does, but so what? Religion is sometimes linked to national origin, sometimes not. Why not argue, for the important but limited goal of prohibiting religious discrimination at universities and colleges, that “national origin” may be broadly interpreted when applying one section of one statute, if the circumstances of the particular case warrant it? Why not direct those who enforce our civil rights laws to “consider” anti-Semitism when making “a detailed analysis of the allegations” of discrimination? That’s all the order says.

Many breakthroughs in the fight against discrimination have resulted from an expansive application of statutory or constitutional language. School desegregation, women’s reproductive rights, and same-sex marriage are examples of good results achieved by broad readings of general legal language/principles that do not expressly mention such rights.

Just a few months ago, gay rights advocates argued in the Supreme Court that the act’s provision barring discrimination on the grounds of “gender” should be broadly read to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of “sexual orientation.” Kudos to them. The administration’s effort to protect the victims of anti-Semitism is cut from the same cloth. It should be applauded, not disparaged.

Mark H. Alcott
New Rochelle, N.Y.

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