The Missouri Senate is considering controversial legislation that would address diversity, equity, and inclusion statements in public education institutions. The bill from Sen. Ben Brown, R-Washington, would ban colleges and universities from enforcing “beliefs that promotes differential treatment” based on race, color, religion, sex, or gender, among others.

Brown told a committee that his bill addresses so-called loyalty oaths.

“DEI statements are not designed to identify teachers who have experience supporting disadvantaged students,” Brown said. “They’ve been used as a political litmus test serving as screens for professors who put a partisan political agenda above the research for teaching enterprise.”

Brown’s bill received harsh opposition, including from Paul Wagner from the Council on Public Higher Education, who said that “loyalty oaths” don’t exist in Missouri’s colleges and universities.

“The bill says we can’t have loyalty oaths,” Wagner said. “We don’t have loyalty oaths as a condition of admission or doing business with the university or being hired by the university. So, maybe they do in the Ivy League or something, I don’t know. I haven’t been presented with one single example of this happening in Missouri.”

On the flipside, Raheem Williams from Do No Harm, a medical and political advocacy group, who supports the bill, equated the legislation to requiring oaths under the guise of “national security” during the Cold War McCarthyism era.

“It is a disturbing echo from the past,” Williams said. “This new spin on an illiberal practice requires faculty and perspective hires or employees to form certain ideological positions or deny others under the threat of professional ostracization. DEI is divisive and ineffective.”

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