Pressed by LGBT Groups, Obama Admin. Publicizes Names of Schools Granted Title IX Religious Exemption
The move delights LGBT groups eager to target universities holding to biblical sexuality morality. But it could also benefit Christian families.
LGBT activists have been pressuring President Obama’s Department of Education to publicly name the colleges granted religious exemptions from Title IX’s transgender mandates. Today, those groups got their wish.
Title IX was enacted in 1972 and was designed to open up school sports to females, setting guidelines requiring schools to offer roughly as many sporting opportunities for females as for males. But in 2014 the Obama Administration issued new guidelines mandating that the Title IX protections be extended to transgender and “gender-nonconforming students.”
And today, Obama’s Department of Education unveiled a searchable database revealing which schools have applied for a waiver from this mandate and the responses from the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights. The link is here.
The LGBT activist organization Human Rights Campaign heaped immediate praise on the DOE. “We commend the Department of Education for answering our call for greater transparency and helping to ensure no student unknowingly enrolls in a school that intends to discriminate against them.”
The Obama adminstration’s interpretation of Title IX has been used to pressure schools into bowing to the administration’s demands concerning transgender students. But Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco told LifeSiteNews last year that such changes must go through Congress — and that the administration’s two-year-old interpretation isn’t binding.
“In fact, federal regulations expressly state that ‘significant guidance documents’ have no binding legal authority,” Tedesco said. “Further, the document does not mention access to restrooms and it does not change binding Title IX regulations authorizing schools to create ‘separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex.'”
“It would take an act of Congress to include ‘gender identity’ as a protected status under Title IX,” he continued. “The school can defend itself against this lawsuit without losing its federal funding. And it should. Allowing students access to the opposite sex’s restrooms would violate the privacy rights of the vast majority of students and trample the rights of parents as well.”
As The New York Times reported in January, “Dozens of religiously affiliated institutions in 26 states have requested waivers since 2013, arguing that the law is inconsistent with their religious beliefs.” The New York Times continued:
The waivers have in some cases involved a range of identities and backgrounds, including gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status and whether a person has had an abortion. They have exempted schools from anti-discrimination rules pertaining to employment, admissions, housing and the provision of facilities like restrooms and locker rooms.
Bob Witeck, head of Witeck Communications, a PR firm for LGBT groups, applauded today’s move, saying these institutions are “outside the mainstream of American society” and predicting they “may suffer some loss of reputation along with lower numbers of qualified applicants in the future.”
School administers and religious conservatives defend the exemptions as a defensive measure that enables the schools to abide by their religious beliefs in the face of what the Times called “changing social and legal attitudes toward gender and sexuality.” Or what others may call a full-fronted assault on traditional values.
Gregory S. Baylor of Alliance Defending Freedom believes the database may well prove beneficial to Christian families.
Many parents of college-minded students may actually find the list a useful resource, as it identifies schools that are skeptical about allowing biological males to use bathrooms, showers, locker rooms and dormitories designed and set aside for women. Each day, new stories reveal the real human harm inflicted on women, including victims of sexual assault, by the woefully misguided and ideologically driven new orthodoxy on gender identity.
To be sure, some will use the information revealed in this documents to try to pressure schools to abandon their religious beliefs or otherwise punish and marginalize them. This sort of bullying would be unfortunate, but we are confident that schools will respond with both conviction and civility, using the spotlight to share not only God’s design for humanity, but the grace He extends to all of us when we depart from that design.
Title IX: Original Intent, Revisionist Intent
Title IX of the Education Amendments, enacted 54 years ago, states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The explosion of women’s sports in the decades since owes much to Title IX.
Religious-affiliated schools have always been permitted to apply for exemptions from parts of the law that violate their beliefs, but applications were rare. That changed in 2014 when the Obama Administration issued new guidelines mandating that the Title IX protections extended to transgender and “gender-nonconforming students.” According to the Human Rights Campaign, waiver applications jumped from one in 2013 to 45 in 2014.
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford has slammed the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for bypassing the legislative process to unilaterally expand the reach of the law. Earlier this year, he expressed his concern that President Obama is manipulating regulations and “guidance documents” to enact his agenda under the radar. Such guidance documents, in the form of what the Administration calls “Dear Colleague” letters, he said, “significantly expands schools liability by prescribing policies required neither by Title IX nor by OCR’s regulations.”
Put another way, schools face the loss of federal funding or civil suits should they violate the guidelines imposed by executive decree. And many argue that the issue goes beyond allowing transgenders to shower in the locker room of their choosing, aims directly at a school’s ability to uphold a standard of morality.
In response to LGBT group Campus Pride’s call last month for the NCAA to disinvest from schools that get a Title IX exemption, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) insisted the group “mischaracterizes our institutions and their policies.”
Said CCCU President Shirley V. Hoogstra in a letter to the NCAA, “CCCU institutions do not inquire about a student’s sexual orientation upon application, nor do they have policies of expelling LGBTQ students summarily.” She continued:
Many do hold a view of marriage as between a man and a woman consistent with the view of all of the world’s major religions, and they ask all employees and students to confine sexual activity to this context for as long as they are a part of the campus community. These policies in no way target LGBTQ members of the community but instead apply to all within the community.
This effort of Campus Pride and affiliated groups to separate schools of faith from the NCAA calls into question the Human Rights Campaign’s claim that the DOE’s release of school names is simply a matter of “transparency.” It raises concerns that the goal is more punitive than informative.
“The government is posting documents about religious schools exercising their religious freedom because the activist Human Rights Campaign and a handful of very liberal Democratic senators asked it to,” Baylor told The Stream. “The Human Rights Campaign and the senators plainly desire to strip faith-based schools of their religious freedom and hope that their allies will target these schools for negative treatment. It is fair to speculate that they hope Congress will one day contract or eliminate the religious freedom Congress respected when it enacted Title IX.”
Baylor says he hopes the publication of this information will “alert the Christian community to the magnitude of the threats facing their institutions.”