(JTA) – Kenneth Marcus stepped down last week as head of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights under the cloud of two complaints that accuse him of promoting cases that further his personal and political agenda.
One of the complaints, filed in May with the department’s inspector general by nine civil rights groups, accuses Marcus of using his position to push through an issue close to him – recognizing Jewishness as a national origin and some forms of pro-Israel activity as protected under civil rights laws including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The complaint also claims that Marcus gave preferential treatment to the Zionist Organization of America, to which he has personal ties, when he reopened an investigation into an allegedly antisemitic incident at Rutgers University, The New York Times reported. In reopening the Rutgers probe, Marcus employed the State Department’s definition of antisemitism, which includes some types of anti-Israel activity, including holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s actions and likening that country’s actions to the Nazis. The definition, which has sparked controversy, was composed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
In January, a complaint filed by a former lawyer in the Office for Civil Rights said Marcus forced employees to investigate a policy that allowed transgender athletes in Connecticut to compete on female sports teams, despite department lawyers questioning whether the department had jurisdiction. The complaint said Marcus pressured the department to rush through a complaint filed in June 2019 by the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom against the transgender athletes competing in the gender in which they identified.
Marcus announced earlier this month that he would step down and become chairman of the board of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which he founded the center and served as its president before he was approved for the civil rights office position in June 2018.
Main Photo: Kenneth L. Marcus. Credit: United States Department of Education.