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OBU among schools targeted by activist group

>> by Will Hall Editor, Louisiana Baptist Message

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)—The homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has targeted 23 institutions of higher learning with Southern Baptist ties in a report that also names 35 other colleges and universities with distinct Christian identities.

Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee is among the group.

Released just before the 2015 Christmas season, the report, “Hidden Discrimination: Title IX Religious Exemptions Putting LGBT Students at Risk,” asks Obama Administration education officials to increase reporting requirements for these 58 schools because each was granted “exemptions of interest” relating to either “gender identity” or “sexual orientation” or both.

Unlike President Obama’s 2014 executive order on LGBT rights, affecting federal employees as well as contractors, which did not allow exemptions for religious organizations, the Title IX law does not apply to an educational institution “controlled by a religious organization” that has “contrary religious tenets.” However, individual schools must apply for specific exemptions and confirm they are either a divinity school or department, or, an educational institution that requires faculty, students and employees to be members of a specific religion, or, a college or university that essentially is an extension of a religious organization.

Christian schools have been forced into a position of requesting such exemptions because Title IX provisions—which were drafted in 1972, in general, to shield women from sexual harassment and give them equal access to education and athletic programs—have been expanded under President Obama beyond providing protections on the basis of biological sex (born male or female) to include behavior such as homosexuality and the mental self-concept of gender identity.

Now, any school receiving federal money must comply with these expanded rights, or in the case of faith-based organizations, request specific waivers with regard to admissions, housing, facilities, athletics, codes of conduct, employment, counseling, financial assistance and health insurance.

Although the HRC acknowledges President Obama’s administration “has little discretion to deny requests by religiously affiliated colleges and universities” regarding Title IX exemptions, and, despite the fact each of these schools seek exemptions because of their well-known Christian beliefs, the activist group nonetheless asks the Department of Education to force each school to publicize:

• “the number of exemptions” it requested and received

• “the scope” of each exemption that was granted

• which Title IX provisions are not exempted

The HRC claims these actions would prevent LGBT students from finding themselves “enrolled at schools that are granted the legal right to discriminate against them partway through their degree program.”

According to the HRC report, 23 colleges and universities affiliated with, or otherwise partners of, Southern Baptists, not including seminaries, have requested Title IX exemptions:

Author: Will Hall

Will Hall is the Editor of the Baptist Message and director of Public Relations at the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

View more articles by Will Hall.

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