LGBTQ activists recently sued the Department of Education asking that it void the “religious exemption” in Title IX that allows Christian schools to follow their beliefs regarding sexuality.
Now a coalition of Christian colleges, arguing that the law exempts them from certain requirements, is asking the court for permission to join the case and defend themselves.
Title IX generally bans different treatment for men and women in college financial aid and other programs. But the requirements “shall not apply to an educational institution which is controlled by a religious organization if the application of this subsection would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”
The LGBTQ activists want the exemption to be removed and penalties to be applied to any school or student that does not comply with the law.
On Monday, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a request on behalf of three Christian schools in federal court in Oregon.
The original complaint, ADF explains, seeks “to prevent any students from using tuition grants, student loans, and any other federal financial assistance at schools that operate according to Christian beliefs on sexuality.”
“This lawsuit wants the federal government to tell Christian schools, ‘To continue accepting students who have federal financial aid, all you have to do is to start acting contrary to your own beliefs.’ That’s neither reasonable nor constitutional,” said ADF spokesman David Cortman. “No court should grant a radical request to rewrite federal law and strong-arm religious colleges by stripping their students of much-needed financial aid. For that reason, we are asking the court to let our clients intervene in this lawsuit so that they and their students can defend their freedoms under federal law and the Constitution.”
The request to join the case is on behalf of Corban University, William Jessup University and Phoenix Seminary.
They are seeking to defend the federal law, Title IX.
The problem is that the original lawsuit named the government as a defendant, and the Biden administration “has already announced that Title IX should be reinterpreted in a way that would undermine religious freedom,” ADF said.
The specific schools that the lawsuit intends to harm are not named, so without permission to intervene they would not be allowed to defend themselves.
“Targeting religious schools hurts the students and families who desire to pursue their education in places that share their faith and values. These schools should be allowed to defend their and their students’ long-recognized freedoms under federal law and the First Amendment,” said ADF counsel Ryan Tucker.
ADF said in its motion to intervene: “The very existence of Title IX’s Religious Exemption is at stake here, yet none of the current parties are religious educational institutions that benefit from this exemption.
“The court should not assess the Religious Exemption’s constitutionality without hearing from the very institutions the exemption was designed to protect,” ADF said.
ADF pointed out that the Title IX language includes “nine exceptions” to the requirements.
“One guarantees religion freedom,” the brief noted. “The rest carve out exemptions for a variety of secular reasons.”
The request contends the plaintiffs’ action would result in the government compromising the schools’ “oral and written speech in chapel, in the classroom, in confidential student counseling, and in school policies and handbooks.”
Further, the changes would violate the schools’ faith-based stances on standards of conduct, facilities regarding residence halls and locker rooms, and sex-separated athletic teams.
“If plaintiffs prevail, religious schools would be stripped of an important statutory exemption that allows them to operate consistently with their religious convictions, unhindered by the existential threat associated with loss of federal funding for the school and its students,” the ADF brief said.
The complaint, filed on behalf of 33 LGBT students, comes as Congress considers passage of the Equality Act, a proposed amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bill would bar discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and the jury system.
It would bar a boy who identifies as a girl from being denied access to girls’ rest rooms and changing facilities. It would allow the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court related to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Critics of the Equality Act argue it would create new rights and overturn First Amendment protections for speech and religion.
The complaint charges the Department of Education has allowed “abuses and unsafe conditions” for LGBTQ individuals.
Among the 25 schools mentioned in the lawsuit are Liberty University, Baylor University, Bob Jones University and Fuller Theological Seminary.
The suit claims that while receiving government funding, the schools did not protect sexual and gender minority students as required under Title IX. It contends the plaintiffs suffered “injurious consequences to mind, body and soul.”
The complaint contends the Department of Education is “duty-bound” by Title IX and the Constitution to “protect sexual and gender minority students.”
“Religious exemptions may be constitutionally permissible, or even compelled,” the lawsuit admits.
But the complaint still asks that the “religious exemption to Title IX, as applied to sexual and gender minority students,” be declared unconstitutional, and that the religious institutions be held to account for actions “that discriminate and cause harm on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs.”
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