A coalition of 33 current and former LGBT students from Christian and religious colleges filed a federal lawsuit on Monday that could dramatically impact how faith-based schools operate by declaring a government religious exemption received by such schools unconstitutional.
Under current federal rules, religious institutions are exempt from Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities. Although the Trump administration argued that Title IX does not apply to sexual orientation and gender identity, the Biden administration has claimed it does.
The lawsuit, filed by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, asks the federal court to declare the Title IX religious exemption clause unconstitutional. It also asks the court to require the federal government to “enforce the protections of Title IX at all taxpayer-funded educational institutions, including at those institutions that discriminate and cause harm on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs.”
If successful, the suit could significantly impact how Christian and religious colleges and universities operate. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are current and former students at such well-known Christian institutions as Union University, Liberty University, Baylor University, Cedarville University, Oklahoma Baptist University and Moody Bible Institute. All total, more than 200 religious colleges are impacted. Christian colleges and universities often prohibit LGBTQ content in student handbooks, based on scriptural teaching.
The lawsuit claims there are more than 100,000 LGBT students attending religious institutions in the U.S.
“The U.S. Department of Education is duty-bound by Title IX and the U.S. Constitution to protect sexual and gender minority students at taxpayer-funded colleges and universities, including private and religious educational institutions that receive federal funding,” the suit says.
The suit asks the court to require the Education Department to “ensure that all federally-funded educational institutions respect the sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression of their students.”
An Education Department spokesperson told The Washington Post that the Biden administration considers religious exemptions valid for “educational institutions controlled by religious organizations.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.