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USDE Pledges Transparency on Title IX Exemptions

FEBRUARY 5, 2016

The United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has pledged to make it easier for prospective students to find out if colleges they may want to attend have applied for or received exemptions to parts of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972,  Under the law, religious colleges may receive exemptions to provisions that conflict with the teachings of their various faiths.  In the last two years, many Christian colleges and universities have sought and received exemptions that apply to gay, lesbian, and transgender students.  Many of these colleges, affiliating with higher educations organizations such as the Association for Biblical Higher Education and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, bar those in same-sex relationships or who are transgender from being either students or employees based upon their religious tenets.  I also know of other such institutions who have applied for the Title IX exemption and are waiting for an official response from the Department of Education.

A report released in December by the Human Rights Campaign drew attention to the number of colleges--56 it asserted--that had sought and received exemptions related to parts of the law dealing with gender identity and sexual orientation.  The Department of Education has responded to requests for names of the institutions  receiving exemptions, but some groups and some lawmakers have said the Department should go further and make sure this information is public.    Catherine E Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, said the Office of Civil Rights would do so.  She said the Department will soon start posting all requests and responses for exemptions with a tool for people to search the documents.  She said she agreed that this information should be available, consistent with her push for more transparency on the Department's work.

As a retired president of one such Christian university that has received this exemption from some provisions of  the gender equality law Title IX,  I have no problem with the Department of Education posting the names of the institutions.  Potential students and parents have every right to know if the colleges and universities that they may be interested in have received this exemption based upon their religious beliefs.  I am just grateful that our laws respect the religious convictions of our faith-based institutions.

Larry J. McKinney
Higher Education Consultant
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