By Bob Allen
The federal government has granted waivers to more than two dozen religious institutions of higher learning from Title IX, which protects LGBT students from discrimination.
Carson-Newman University, affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, recently received exemption for ‚Äúreligious tenets regarding marriage, sex outside of marriage, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy and abortion.‚ÄĚ
Other Baptist schools requesting an exemption include Judson College and University of Mobile in Alabama, Williams Baptist College in Arkansas, Baptist College of Florida, University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky, Louisiana College, William Carey University in Mississippi, Oklahoma Baptist University, Charleston Southern University and North Greenville University in South Carolina and Union University in Tennessee.
East Texas Baptist University, Howard Payne University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor all won Title IX exemption with aid from a resolution on ‚Äútransgender issues‚ÄĚ passed by the Baptist General Convention of Texas executive board in February.
When Title IX was passed in 1972 to prohibit federally funded education programs and activities from discrimination based on sex, Congress added a provision stating an educational institution controlled by a religious organization does not have to comply in cases that ‚Äúwould not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.‚ÄĚ
Right-to-discriminate waivers were relatively rare until the Obama administration changed Title IX in 2014 to prohibit discrimination ‚Äúbased on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity‚ÄĚ in an effort to combat student-on-student violence against LGBT individuals.
According to Campus Pride, a non-profit organization that supports LGBTQ students on college campuses, 15 Southern Baptist Convention colleges and universities obtaining waivers all together received more than $52 million in federal aid in 2014.
Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, called it ‚Äúshameful and wrong‚ÄĚ for the schools to request Title IX exemption ‚Äúbased on religion-based bigotry targeting LGBQ and transgender people for no other purpose than to discriminate, expel and ban them from campus.‚ÄĚ
Randall O’Brien, president of Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn., told WVLT Local 8 News in Knoxville he filed for the waiver on the advice of an attorney in order to ‚Äúfurther make us a Christian school.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThis is who we are our religious principles, and in a changing world we want to reaffirm who we are and intend to be,‚ÄĚ O‚ÄôBrien said.
O‚ÄôBrien said the school doesn‚Äôt plan to discriminate against any students, but the attorney believed getting a waiver ‚Äúwould strengthen our First Amendment rights.‚ÄĚ
The Knoxville News-Sentinel said Carson-Newman‚Äôs attorney, Jim Guenther, has recommended the same for several other Christian colleges. Guenther, an attorney in Nashville, Tenn., has for many years served as legal counsel for the Southern Baptist Convention and various SBC entities.