On Tuesday, the Justice Department released a court filing pledging to “vigorously” defend religious schools’ exemption from anti-LGBTQ discrimination laws. The current federal civil rights law exempts federally funded religious schools from admitting LGBTQ students, a provision under an enormous amount of scrutiny amidst the ongoing upheaval around legal rights regarding sex, gender, sexuality and religion.
The Biden administration says it “shares the same ultimate objective” as conservative Christian schools fighting to keep their legal exemptions from Title IX anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ students intact.
The Religious Exemption Accountability Project has leveled a lawsuit against the Department of Education for providing federal funding to schools that don’t admit LGBTQ students.
“The Plaintiffs seek safety and justice for themselves and for the countless sexual and gender minority students whose oppression, fueled by government funding, and unrestrained by government intervention, persists with injurious consequences to mind, body and soul,” reads the suit. “The Department’s inaction leaves students unprotected from the harms of conversion therapy, expulsion, denial of housing and healthcare, sexual and physical abuse and harassment, as well as the less visible, but no less damaging, consequences of institutionalized shame, fear, anxiety and loneliness.”
Conservative Christian colleges have expected this fight for years and argue that they have a First Amendment right to promote traditional beliefs about sexuality and gender. They probably did not expect the Biden Administration to take their side, however.
The Biden Administration is navigating several fronts on this issue, pushing for the passing of the Equality Act, which would add gender identity and sexuality to the list of groups protected under the Civil Rights Act, while also backing conservative religious schools’ argument that they should be exempted from such laws.
Megan Steffen, a 24-year-old Moody Bible Institute graduate, is among the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. She told the Chicago Tribune about her struggles as a lesbian at Moody and says that while she doesn’t expect her alma mater to change its theology around traditional sex and gender issues, she does hope such institutions can be less discriminatory towards LGBTQ people like her.
“I don’t think Moody’s ever going to become what in the Christian world they call affirming, which just means fully accepting of LGBTQ people,” Steffen told the Tribune. “However, as much as I find their beliefs so, so, so hurtful, you can still hold those beliefs and not actively discriminate.”
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.