A prominent homosexual advocacy group is calling upon the U.S. Department of Education to release the names of religious schools that it believes are “using faith as a guise for discrimination” by seeking exemptions from a federal law that has recently been interpreted to pertain to homosexuality and transgenderism.
“There is an alarming and growing trend of schools quietly seeking the right to discriminate against LGBT students, and not disclosing that information publicly,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin in a statement. “We believe that religious liberty is a bedrock principle of our nation, however faith should never be used as a guise for discrimination.”
The group is referring to Christian colleges and universities nationwide that have requested an exemption from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits educational institutions from discriminating against a person based on their gender. Although the law has been most known as being applied to women, the Department of Education recently told various schools that Title IX also applies to transgender students.
But Title IX also contains a provision allowing religious schools to request an exemption from the law if “application of the law would conflict with specific tenets of the religion.” HRC notes in a new report that 56 schools nationwide have requested an exemption, especially in recent years, with 23 seeking an exemption surrounding their convictions about homosexuality and 33 seeking an exemption surrounding transgender issues.
Schools who do not seek an exemption may be required to allow male students who identify as female to use the girls’ restroom and vice versa, or may be mandated to permit male students who identify as female to share dorm space with the girls and vice versa.
HRC provided the example of a George Fox University student named Jayce, a female who identifies as male.
“Jayce, a transgender male student, was denied a request to live in male housing with his friends,” it outlined. “George Fox had argued that accommodating transgender students would be incompatible with their interpretation of the Bible. Jayce questioned the school’s rationale: ‘I’m living with a bunch of young women … It’s not a good recipe for promoting the kind of behavior that a Christian university expects from its students.'”
The group also told the story of Southwestern Christian University student Christian Minard, who was expelled after the school learned that she had “married” her same-sex partner.
“Southwestern Christian required students to sign a ‘lifestyle covenant’ prohibiting, among other things, ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) behavior or acts,'” it explained.
HRC believes that it is discrimination for religious schools to refuse to allow transgender students to use the restroom or dorm of their choice, or to prohibit students from engaging in homosexual behavior. It wants the Department of Education to release the names of the educational institutions that have requested an exemption from Title IX and to require schools to post information on their website about the scope of the exemption granted.
“Prospective students and their parents deserve greater transparency, and we urge the Department of Education to take action by helping to increase accountability and to ensure that no student unknowingly enrolls in a school that intends to discriminate against them,” Griffin said.
But some institutions say that the exemptions are extremely important as Christian schools must be permitted to live out their faith lest they violate their entire purpose and mission as a Bible-based organization.
“If we were unable to choose faculty members who both live out and have a traditional view of Christian sexual morality, then that really damages our ability to pursue our mission as an institution,” Hunter Baker, a fellow for religious liberty at Union University, told the Daily Caller. “You’re making it illegal for us to insist on a Christian life and worldview.”