Sep 28, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Biden administration broadens Civil Rights Act to counter antisemitism and Islamophobia

Illustration of the White House with text from Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a crescent moon and star, and Star of David.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The Biden administration said Thursday it will use the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit antisemitism and Islamophobia in federally funded programs.

Why it matters: Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. hit a record high last year. The move is part of the first National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, which the White House calls the most comprehensive effort to counter antisemitism in American history.

  • The Council on American-Islamic Relations recorded a 28% increase in hate and bias incidents against Muslims in 2022 over the year before.

Zoom in: Eight federal agencies clarified — for the first time — that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits "certain forms of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and related forms of discrimination in federally funded programs and activities."

  • The agencies included are the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, Treasury and Transportation.
  • "We believe that Americans deserve the agency to receive the care they need regardless of what they look like or believe in," Melanie Fontes Rainer, the Health and Human Services civil rights director, said in a statement.

Between the lines: Title VI doesn't explicitly protect from discrimination based on religion. The clarification focuses on:

  • Ancestry, ethnic characteristics (actual or perceived).
  • Citizenship or residency in a country with a dominant religion or distinct religious identities (actual or perceived).
  • Protection when discrimination involves racial, ethnic, ancestral slurs; skin color or other physical features; style of dress; foreign language, accent or name

Flashback: Biden launched the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism earlier this year.

  • "Loud voices are normalizing this venom, but we must never allow it to become normal," a White House statement said.

Go deeper: Biden forms task force to fight antisemitism

Editor's note: This article has been updated to add details about Islamophobic incidents.

Go deeper