Title VI of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Religious Discrimination


No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial Assistance.


“The civil rights laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) protect all students, regardless of religious identity, from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age. None of the laws that OCR enforces expressly address religious discrimination. However, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) protects students of any religion from discrimination, including harassment, based on a student’s actual or perceived:


  • shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, or
  • citizenship or residency in a country with a dominant religion or distinct religious identity.”


Any educational institution that receives federal funding is covered by Title VI. It is helpful to familiarize yourself with the nuts and bolts of this law and the ways in which it applies to campus life.  We recommend reading the linked resources carefully, as well as any resources your institution provides, for example, through their Office of Diversity.  As a primer, here are a few things to bear in mind (for more information, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website): 


  • In addition to state schools, private schools and other institutions (museums, libraries) also receive federal funding.
  • Any program or activity that receives U.S. Department of Education (ED) funding must operate without discrimination. “These may include, but are not limited to: admissions, recruitment, financial aid, academic programs, student treatment and services, counseling and guidance, discipline, classroom assignment, grading, vocational education, recreation, physical education, athletics, housing and employment, if it affects those who are intended to benefit from the Federal funds.”
  • A recipient of ED funding may not retaliate against someone for opposing an unlawful (as framed by Title VI) practice or policy. Any retaliation is considered a violation of Title VI. 
  • OCR doesn’t have the bandwidth to investigate and review every single institution that receives ED funding, so they provide guidance and support to recipient institutions to help them voluntarily comply with Title VI. 
  • Anyone who feels their Title VI rights have been violated may file a complaint with OCR under Title VI. You may file on someone else’s behalf. 
  • A complaint should be sent to the OCR regional office that serves the state in which the alleged discrimination occurred
  • A complaint must be filed within 180 days of the date of the alleged discrimination unless the time for filing is extended for good cause by the Regional Civil Rights Director.
  • More details on how to file a complaint are available here.
  • The Department of Education recommends (but does not require) that a potential complainant may wish to activate their institution’s grievance process before filing a complaint with their regional OCR. 
For more information, check out the Hindu American Foundation’s Know Your Rights guide.