On Friday, the nation’s largest gay-rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), released a chilling report that investigates a “disturbing trend” of religious colleges’ taking legal measures to exercise their religious liberty, using waivers available to them under Title IX. A summary of the report can be found here.
Titled “Hidden Discrimination: Title IX Religious Exemptions Putting LGBT Students at Risk,” the report looks at 56 colleges that have sought such exemptions. According to the report, “Since 2013, 33 have received exemptions from protections that relate to gender identity, and 23 have received exemptions relating to sexual orientation.”
With the wind at its back, however, HRC is capitalizing on legal and cultural shifts in believing it can single out and intimidate those Christian schools, which, SURPRISE . . . believe and act according to the Christian tradition.
The report issues three policy recommendations, calling on:
the Department of Education to require schools to publish comprehensive information about the scope of the exemption they received and the way Title IX still protects students;
the Department of Education to regularly report which educational institutions have been granted Title IX religious exemptions and the scope of those exemptions, and to ensure that the information is provided on the individual schools’ landing page as part of College Navigator; and
Congress to amend the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) governing statute to require OCR to annually report the number of Title IX exemptions that were requested, granted, and denied.
In effect, HRC wants the Department of Education to publicly list these unsanctioned dissenters, require these institutions to confess their sins publicly, and to be held accountable for any sins committed.
The full report includes the private correspondence between the schools and the federal government obtained through open-record requests. The nature of the investigation comes across as manufacturing a hit list of offending schools.
What are we to make of this?
First, HRC does not call for an outright end to such exemptions. Surely HRC’s own political advisers know that a call to end such exemptions would be far too radical. Furthermore, such action would be legislatively impossible. But that leads to the next point.
The long-term goal of the efforts that HRC is engaged in is the total capitulation and redefinition of biblical, orthodox, and historic Christianity.
Secondly, HRC is strategically incremental. While calling for the end to such exemptions is too radical at present, the purpose of this report is to single out, stigmatize, and intimidate religious schools that remain heretical to the orthodoxy of the Sexual Revolution. The long-term effect of reports like this is clear: “We’re coming for you. Reverse course, or we’ll eventually bring you to heel through the force of law.” Give it time, because I don’t believe HRC is magnanimous enough to leave the issue alone. In the long term, HRC is seeking to put Christian colleges on the opposite side of federal law.
Third, keep in mind that the waivers sought by these schools are entirely legal. A school seeking to preserve its Christian identity is entitled, under federal law, to take measures that help preserve its identity.
Fourth, in a post-Obergefell world, the report indicates the next front of the culture war: Religious liberty and the ability of religious institutions to stay true to their confessional identity. Concerned citizens should look upon this report with chilling awe. Within six months of Obergefell, the nation’s leading gay-rights lobby is trying to disrupt the relationship between religious colleges and the federal government.
Fifth, let us remember that the long-term goal of the efforts that HRC is engaged in is the total capitulation and redefinition of biblical, orthodox, and historic Christianity. The glorification of homosexuality conflicts with the teachings of orthodox Christianity.
Sixth, the politics of religious liberty are here, and real. The next president will have immense power in the shaping the future of the judiciary. And thus, conservative Christians will need a president who will stem the tide of Christianity’s forced exit from public life.
These are serious times. HRC is pulling out all stops to ensure that all dissenters are shown the exit. As my friend Erick Erickson likes to say, “You will be made to care.” Indeed, we are.
— Andrew T. Walker serves as director of policy studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. You can find him on Twitter: @andrewtwalk