LGBT Group Calls on Government to Address ‘Disturbing Trend’ on Religious College Campuses
by Kelsey Harkness
The largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activist group in the country is calling on the Department of Education to address what it calls a “disturbing trend” on college campuses.
Specifically, the Human Rights Campaign is calling for more transparency towards what it sees as a trend of schools citing religious reasons for not adhering to Title IX.
The Human Rights Campaign believes that in granting such exemptions, schools are given a “license to discriminate.”
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs that receive federal funding. If schools are found in violation of the statute, their federal dollars could be at risk.
To address these concerns, the Human Rights Campaign wants the Department of Education to issue public reports stating which institutions request or receive religious exemptions, and to detail the scope of those exemptions.
“We believe that religious liberty is a bedrock principle of our nation, however faith should never be used as a guise for discrimination,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a press release last week. “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.”
Specifically, the Human Rights Campaign is calling for:
- The Department of Education to require schools to publish comprehensive information about the scope of the exemption they received and the way in which Title IX still protects students
- The Department of Education to regularly report which educational institutions have been granted Title IX religious exemptions, the scope of those exemptions, and ensure the information is provided on the individual schools’ landing page as part of College Navigator
- Congress to amend the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) governing statute to require OCR to annually report the number of Title IX exemptions that were requested, granted, and denied
Religious schools often believe that adhering to Title IX conflicts with tenets of their beliefs including on marriage, sexual orientation, and abortion.
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s latest report, at least 56 colleges and universities have requested religious exemptions under Title IX since 2013.
Southern Wesleyan University is one of them.
A spokesman for the college confirmed to The Daily Signal the university “did make a request for a Title IX exemption, citing our biblically based religious principles.”
The school, which is based in S.C., is owned by The Wesleyan Church and adheres to those teachings.
Another university listed in the Human Rights Campaign’s report is Union University.
Hunter Baker, a fellow for religious liberty at Union, told The Daily Signal that the erosion of religious liberty exemptions, would make it “illegal” for schools to operate in accordance to their religious beliefs.
“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,” Baker said. “You’re making it illegal for us to insist on a Christian life and worldview.”
Baker said it would be a “major intrusion” on the school’s standards of conduct for its student body. Union University, a Baptist college in Jackson, Tenn., follows a traditional Christian view of marriage and sexuality, for example.
“Any kind of activity that would occur between two same-sex individuals would be unacceptable by our standards of conduct,” he said.
Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, calls the Human Right Campaign’s requests an attempt to “blacklist religiously-affiliated schools.”
“We need more diversity in higher education institutions, not less, yet [the Human Rights Campaign] wants to out, interrogate, and blacklist religiously-affiliated schools that assert their right to continue to embody and pass on their teachings about marriage and human sexuality consistent with their faith,” he said, adding:
The real story is the Department of Education’s attempt to force schools to provide unrestricted access to shared dorms, lockers, bathrooms and showers to persons who self-identify as male, female, none, or both, regardless of their biology or genetics. No one should be surprised when religious schools push back on this unprecedented federal intrusion.
The Daily Signal reached out to The Human Rights Campaign for comment, but they did not respond to our request.