The New York Times reports that the federal Education Department will create a searchable public database that lists colleges and universities with exemptions on religious grounds from Title IX civil rights law.
Many religious institutions have sought waivers on religious grounds. Critics have said this has enabled discrimination against gay and transgender students and employees. Apart from the merits of the argument, critics have said students and others have been blind-sided by the waivers because they weren’t widely known and could only be discovered through cumbersome federal Freedom of Information Act requests. From the Times:
A Dec. 18 letter sent by Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, and co-signed by seven other lawmakers, including the Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont, expressed alarm at both the lack of transparency in the exemption process and the harm the waivers could pose for some students.
“We are concerned these waivers allow for discrimination under the guise of religious freedom,” the lawmakers wrote. “Already, we have seen this same path used in our legal system to undermine benefits for women and used to facilitate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Responding to the lawmakers’ letter on Wednesday, Catherine E. Lhamon, the assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education, said she shared their concerns over transparency.
She said the department would publish detailed documentation about which schools had sought or received exemptions online in “a basic search tool” in the coming months.
When last we checked, one college in Arkansas had sought a Title IX exemption — Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge. The college offered a detailed explanation to the Times in the item I’ve linked. In explaining the decision, it said it had not had to apply its terms to any student in the year the waiver had been in effect. In the explanation,a spokesman cited the statement on sexual ethics in the student handbook:
“Williams Baptist College holds to a biblical sexual ethic and definition of sexual identity. But because we believe that all men and women are created in the image of God, we believe in the love and grace of God for all people, for those who live by a traditional sexual ethic and those who do not. Based on our understanding of biblical standards, the values of the College community do not condone sexual impropriety, such as the use of pornography, pre-marital sex, adultery, co-habitation on or off campus, homosexual activity including same-sex dating behaviors, and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between a man and a woman. Williams does not endorse or approve of the trans-gendered lifestyle. Thus, we welcome all qualified individuals to our campus, but we do not condone sex-related behaviors that are contrary to our values and our interpretation of scripture (Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 2:23-24, Leviticus 19:2, Micah 6:8, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Galatians 5:16-26, Ephesians 5:1-4).”
WBC remains committed to such principles, so the college sought this waiver in order to assure it has the broadest possible rights to be a Baptist college, and so that it can continue to follow its religious convictions without the risk of violating its Title IX compliance.
You’ll find more at the link.