Department of Education Investigates Religious Colleges after LGBT-Identified Students File Complaints

Department of Education Investigates Religious Colleges after LGBT-Identified Students File Complaints

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (DOE, OCR) is targeting religious colleges and universities for violating Title IX by upholding biblical standards about relationships, sexuality and marriage. LGBT-identified students have filed complaints that they were discriminated against on the basis of their “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

The first school to be investigated was Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, Illinois, affiliated with the Christian Churches or Churches of Christ.

Kalie Hargrove, born male but living as a “transwoman,” alleges that the school violated Title IX and discriminated against him “on the basis of sex (gender identity) by directing her either to withdraw from classes or face discipline because she publicly identified as transgender.” Hargrove was pursuing a master’s in divinity but had begun to accept his “own identity as a transgender woman.”

The Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP), which filed the complaint on Hargrove’s behalf, “empowers queer, trans and non-binary students at more than 200 taxpayer-funded religious colleges and universities that actively discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.”

Clarks Summit University in Pennsylvania is the second school to come under fire, with the OCR investigating, again, a complaint filed by REAP. Gary Campbell, who identifies as a gay man, alleges that the Christian school “maintains a policy in its Student Handbook prohibiting students from engaging in same-sex romantic or sexual relationships, as well as from ‘cross-dressing or other actions deliberately discordant with birth gender.’”

Well, yes, that policy is in line with traditional Christian teaching that God created us male and female in His image and likeness and that He instituted marriage as a life-long, covenantal relationship between a husband and a wife.

Campbell said that he was disturbed by how the school treated his homosexual identity, and for a period of time was “self-medicating with alcohol to grapple with Religious Trauma Syndrome” because of this.

He commented on the OCR investigation, saying, “Now the Office for Civil Rights is saying they are diving in deep, that there is value in this investigation. They’re saying there are red flags here, and that helps me rid my mind of a lot of self-gaslighting and doubt, brainwashing that I was at fault. This whole process is therapeutic for me.”

Most recently, The Washington Examiner reported on another investigation by the Education Department. “The Biden administration is conducting an investigation into a private religious university in Utah over how it disciplines gay and transgender students.”

The school, Brigham Young University, enforces Mormon policies against same-sex relationships. A 2020 letter from Mormon Elder Paul V. Johnson stated that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” He added, “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code.”

Christians can disagree with Mormons about “eternal marriage,” while still upholding the university’s religious freedom.

Title IX was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 and prohibits sex-based discrimination. It was designed to give girls and women equal opportunities in education – not to deal with LGBT-identified individuals.  

In 2021, the DOE announced that it was reinterpreting “sex discrimination” in Title IX to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The DOE redefined sex – which meant being male or female when Title IX was enacted – to include homosexuality and transgenderism.

As previously reported by The Daily Citizen, REAP filed a class action lawsuit against the DOE to end Title IX religious exemptions for religious colleges. 

The suit was filed on behalf of dozens of specific current and former students, as well as “the more than 100,000 sexual and gender minority students attending religious colleges and universities where discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is codified in campus policies and openly practiced.”

Religious schools may apply for an exemption to Title IX requirements from the DOE and still receive government funds through student loans, “to the extent that application of Title IX would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization.”

Surely the students in the REAP lawsuit and in these individual complaints knew what they were signing up for by applying to and attending religious institutions. But now, they have turned against their alma maters and want to see these religious exemptions end.

Related articles and resources:

The lawsuit is Elizabeth Hunter, et al., v. U.S. Department of Education

DOE Holds Hearings on Pushing ‘Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’ in Education

Department of Education Redefines ‘Sex’ in Title IX to Include ‘Sexual Orientation’ and ‘Gender Identity’

LGBT Students and Alumni Sue to Stop Title IX Religious Exemptions at Their Colleges and Universities

Photo from Facebook.

About The Author

Jeff Johnston

Jeff Johnston is a culture and policy analyst for Focus on the Family and a staff writer for the Daily Citizen. He researches, writes and teaches about topics of concern to families such as parental rights, religious freedom, LGBT issues, education and free speech. Johnston has been interviewed by CBS Sunday Morning, The New York Times, Associated Press News, The Christian Post, Rolling Stone and Vice, and is a frequent guest on radio and television outlets. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from San Diego State University with a Bachelors in English and a Teaching Credential. He and his wife have been married 30 years and have three grown sons.