The federal government has dismayingly granted a private Baptist institution an exception from anti-discrimination rules — privileging conservative Christians at the expense of others.
“The U.S. Department of Education accepted Baylor University’s request for exemption from Title IX’s sexual harassment provision after the private Baptist school asked to dismiss discrimination complaints filed by LGBTQ-plus students that the university said were ‘inconsistent’ with the institution’s religious values,” reports Religion News Service.
Some background as to how this disreputable exemption came about: The Religious Exemption Accountability Project, which fights discrimination on religious campuses, filed a Title IX complaint on behalf of former student Veronica Bonifacio Penales asserting that Baylor had been negligent in addressing anti-LGBTQ hate that she had been subjected to. In response, Baylor claimed the right to be exempt from such provisions as a private religious university — and the Biden administration has agreed.
Appallingly, the federal government has sided with the university’s perspective. Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary at the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, confirmed in a letter to the university president that Baylor doesn’t have to comply with certain Title IX provisions “to the extent that they are inconsistent with the University’s religious tenets.”
To compound the sin, the Biden administration’s response may be the first such in history. “Two Title IX experts contacted for this story said they’d never heard of an exemption being granted specifically for sexual harassment,” reports Mother Jones.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation condemns the Biden administration’s inexplicable appeasement.
“This is highly disappointing and morally reprehensible,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It blows a hole in anti-discrimination laws nationwide.”
Elizabeth Reiner Platt, director of the Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia Law School, has correctly told the Texas Tribune that the decision was “the latest example of religious exemptions being expanded in ways that undermine equality rights.”
The ramifications down the road of the Biden administration’s special dispensation are uncertain, with everything depending on how this is used as a marker for future decisions in related instances. However, the portents are unsettling.
“As often happens in such situations, these exemptions will be enlarged and stretched over time,” Gaylor remarks. “The victims will be numerous students at campuses all over the country suffering discrimination in the name of religion.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the largest national association of freethinkers, representing 40,000 atheists, agnostics, and others (including more than 1,700 members in Texas) who form their opinions about religion based on reason, rather than faith, tradition or authority.