Washington D.C., Jun 9, 2021 / 16:01 pm
The Biden administration on Tuesday said it is required by law to uphold a Title IX exemption for religious colleges, in response to a lawsuit filed by students identifying as LGBT.
Filing in an Oregon district court, the Justice Department said that religious post-secondary schools seeking to intervene in a case to defend their Title IX religious exemption are not entitled to do so; the colleges have not made a “compelling” case that the federal government won’t defend their religious exemption in court, the Biden administration argued.
In the case of Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education, the pro-LGBT Religious Exemption Accountability Project in March filed a lawsuit on behalf of 33 current and former students from more than 20 colleges associated with evangelical Christianity and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The students, who identify as LGBT, said they experienced discrimination at the schools on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The schools, they argued, should be subject to the Title IX prohibition on sex discrimination – which the Biden administration interprets to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Title IX includes an exemption for religious colleges and universities.
In response, two Christian universities and one seminary – as well as the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities – in April moved to intervene in the case to defend their religious exemptions. The three schools – Corban University, William Jessup University, and Phoenix Seminary – are represented by the group Alliance Defending Freedom.
In a court filing reported by the Washington Post on Tuesday, the Biden administration argued that the colleges should not be able to intervene in the case, because they have not proven that the administration would not adequately defend their religious exemption in court.
The Justice Department stated that “at this stage of the litigation, it is premature to conclude that the Federal Defendants would neglect to raise, or be ‘ill-equipped’ to develop, effective arguments in support of the Religious Exemption.”
The administration said that it has a “duty” to uphold the statutory religious exemption, and thus shares the same interests as the colleges “to uphold the Religious Exemption as it is currently applied,” and “to defend the statutory exemption and its current application by ED.”