NASHVILLE (BP) — A number of schools associated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) have expressed support over a policy approved by the group’s Council of Presidents stating that only student-athletes whose biological sex is female may participate in female sports.

All eligible NAIA student-athletes can participate in male sports, the statement included.

“This is the right policy on the basis of three things,” said Stan Norman, president of Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge, Ark. “For our school, it’s right because of our faith. We want to provide a competitive environment for men and women on the basis of what the Bible teaches.

“Secondly, it’s appropriate because of Title IX. That was enacted to provide an equitable quality athletic experience for women to compete against women at the collegiate level.

“Third, it’s a common-sense approach to collegiate athletics. I’m stating the obvious, but there is a biological difference between men and women. It becomes an issue not only of disadvantage, but of safety. This is the right approach to take.”

The NAIA lists 241 member institutions on its website spread across 21 conferences that include some 83,000 student-athletes. The policy, approved on April 8 and taking effect Aug. 1, stipulates that it does not apply to the co-ed sports of competitive dance and competitive cheer.

Hannibal-LaGrange University in northeast Missouri has approximately 160 student-athletes in 15 varsity sports – six for men and eight for women, with one co-ed. In a statement to Baptist Press, the school announced it was “pleased with the action taken by the NAIA to protect the integrity of intercollegiate women’s sports.”

Brewton-Parker College, in south Georgia, also lauded the policy’s protection of women’s sports as well as institutions with a biblical worldview.

“This decision allows faith-based members, such as Brewton-Parker College, the ability to uphold our beliefs while preserving the integrity of competition for our 140 female athletes that participate in one of our seven women’s sports programs,” the school’s vice president for Enrollment Services and Athletics, Chris Dooley, told BP.

Student-athletes whose biological sex is female are allowed to participate as long as they have not begun any masculinizing hormone therapy, said the NAIA statement. If that process has started, they are allowed to participate in “all activities internal to the institution” such as workouts, practices and team activities. External competition may take place as long as it is not in a “countable contest.”

The statement clarified that such participation is under the discretion of the member institution, which must notify the NAIA national office that will, in turn, take steps to “provide appropriate privacy protections.”

“It is imperative that the dignity and privacy of transgender athletes be respected,” read the statement. “Therefore, the NAIA will rely on its long-standing process for complying with all NAIA regulations, which places primary responsibility for adherence to all rules and policies on the institution. Similarly, should any institution determine it has violated these policies, the institution is expected to self-report the violation.”

Scott Barkley is national correspondent for Baptist Press.