Several Christian colleges have entered the legal fray over an attempt by LGBT activists to remove the religious exemption contained in the 1972 federal law known as Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. The religious exemption allows faith-based educational institutions to teach from a biblical worldview of marriage, gender and sexuality, as well as practice those distinctives in such matters as sex-segregated housing, locker rooms and sports teams.
The federal lawsuit, Hunter v. U.S. Dept. of Education, seeks a court order declaring that the U.S. Department of Education, which is charged with enforcement of the law, must “protect sexual and gender minorities.” Allowing faith-based schools to have Christian statements of faith and codes of conduct concerning marriage, gender and sexuality, and segregating certain programs and facilities based on biological sex, constitute violations of both Title IX and the U.S. Constitution, according to the legal complaint filed by the 33 LGBT plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs are all current or former students at faith-based schools.
Fearing that the Biden administration will support the plaintiffs’ reinterpretation of Title IX rather than vigorously defend the five-decade-old law, three Christian schools – Corban University, William Jessup University, and Phoenix Seminary – asked the federal court, with assistance from attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), for permission to join the lawsuit and defend the law.
“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 Senior Counsel and Vice President of U.S. Litigation David Cortman in a press release. “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 schools’ request to join the lawsuit will be evaluated and decided by the judge in charge of the case soon. Their legal papers reminded the judge of the religious protections contained in Title IX.
“Although Title IX generally prohibits differential treatment based on sex, that prohibition does not apply to religious educational institutions if it conflicts with their ‘religious tenets,’” the schools’ motion to intervene reads.
The lawsuit may have been prompted by LGBT activists’ success in getting the U.S. Supreme Court to redefine “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” for purposes of federal employment laws in Bostock v. Clayton County. Several lower federal courts have since used Bostock’s reasoning to reinterpret Title IX’s definition of sex in a similar manner. The current lawsuit’s attempt to push the envelope even further threatens the existence of faith-based institutions that adhere to a biblical worldview, which would be forced to choose between their faith principles and the receipt of federal tax dollars.
Thirteen million students annually receive federal financial aid for their educations, and many of those attend faith-based institutions. And what’s typically forgotten in debates over the use of taxpayer funds is that many of those taxpayers are members of a religious faith who have children attending religious schools. There’s nothing inherently unfair or unconstitutional about allowing students to use their financial aid to attend the school of their choice, including ones associated with a particular faith.
The attempt by LGBT activists to force religious institutions to give up their biblical views or face extinction – which a loss of students dependent on financial aid might cause – is both vindictive and unnecessary. It’s not as if students are forced to attend these schools. As part of their school selection process, it is incumbent upon them to both investigate and buy into the statement of faith and codes of conduct of the institutions they seek to attend, or go elsewhere.
We will be following this case closely and keep you apprised of developments.
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