Christian colleges and universities may continue receiving federal student grants and loans, following a federal judge’s order Jan. 12 in a lawsuit aimed at defunding colleges that follow Biblical teaching about gender and sexuality.
In 2021, a group of about 40 current and former LGBTQ students at religious colleges and universities filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon against the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) challenging an exemption to a 1972 federal law barring “sex-based discrimination.”
The Title IX exemption states: “Title IX does not apply to an educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization to the extent that application of Title IX would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization.”
Believing that the DOE under the Biden administration would not be inclined to deliver an adequate defense, and arguing that the suit improperly names the DOE as the defendant, the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities filed a motion in 2021 to intervene and be heard in the case, as did Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys. ADF represented three Christian schools: Corban University, William Jessup University and Phoenix Seminary.
David Cortman, ADF senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation, hailed the federal judge’s ruling as a victory for religious freedom and for students’ rights to receive direct federal financial assistance through educational institutions that have Biblical faith commitments.
“A federal district court [Jan. 12] rightly rejected an unfounded assault on the religious freedom of faith-based educational institutions,” Cortman said. “Title IX, which applies to schools receiving federal financial assistance, explicitly protects the freedom of religious schools to live out their deeply and sincerely held convictions. A group of activists asked the court to strip that protection away from schools that educate the next generation and advance the common good. The court correctly concluded that Title IX’s religious liberty exemption doesn’t violate any of the plaintiffs’ claimed rights.”
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken, who was appointed to the federal court by President Bill Clinton, wrote in her 40-page ruling: “Exempting religiously controlled educational institutions from Title IX is substantially related to the government’s objective of accommodating religious exercise.”
Rob Schwarzwalder, senior lecturer at Regent University’s Honors College, wrote in an Jan. 16 article for The Washington Stand: “I cannot help but wonder why the students who filed the lawsuit attend Christian colleges and universities whose faith commitments state clearly what they believe about human sexuality. Did they apply to and enter these schools under false pretenses—affirming the institutions’ doctrinal standards while intending to fight them once enrolled? Or upon attending, did they decide they were LGBTQ and choose to remain in order to overturn the schools’ commitments to biblical teaching?”
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