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Campus Pride Group Names 190 Religious Colleges ‘Unsafe’ for LGBTQ Students

At Seattle Pacific University people participate in a sit-in May 26, 2022, after the board of trustees decided to retain a policy that prohibits the hiring of people in same-sex relationships for full-time positions.
At Seattle Pacific University people participate in a sit-in May 26, 2022, after the board of trustees decided to retain a policy that prohibits the hiring of people in same-sex relationships for full-time positions.
Photo via Twitter/@SPUisGay

The Banner has a subscription to republish articles from Religion News Service. This story by Alejandra Molina was published on Sept. 8. It has been edited for relevance to The Banner’s readership including adding context on Title IX and on Campus Pride (in the first, third, and seventh paragraphs) and for connection to the Christian Reformed Church (in the eighth, ninth and 11th paragraphs).

Dozens of religious universities across the United States, including Seattle Pacific University in Washington and Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa, were listed as unsafe and discriminatory campuses for LGBTQ students by Campus Pride, a national organization advocating for inclusive colleges and universities. Criteria for being added to the list include filing for or receiving a religious exemption under Title IX, a civil rights in education law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

Fewer than 10 of the 193 schools on the list released Sept. 8, were not religiously affiliated or did not list a religious affiliation, according to Campus Pride.

Campus Pride said it launched the national listing in 2015 to bring attention to colleges and universities that requested Title IX exemptions against LGBTQ students. Title IX provides for such exemptions: “Title IX does not apply to an educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization to the extent that application of Title IX would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization” (20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)(3); 34 C.F.R. § 106.12(a)).

Among the campuses on the advocacy group’s list: Azusa Pacific University, an interdenominational Christian school in Southern California; Baylor University, a Baptist school in Waco, Texas; George Fox University, a Quaker institution in Newberg, Ore.; Yeshiva University, a Modern Orthodox Jewish school in New York City; and Liberty University, a Baptist institution in Lynchburg, Va.

More than 120 schools were listed as exempt from Title IX.

Other schools in California were placed on the list due to their opposition to a state bill that targets private universities exempted from anti-discrimination laws. The schools argue compliance would conflict with their religious tenets, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Campus Pride’s list says Title IX exemptions “perpetuate the harms of religion-based bigotry.” 

Sarah Moss, director of marketing and communication for Dordt University said Dordt is aware of Campus Pride’s “Absolute Worst List for LGBTQ Youth” and did not have a statement “outside of what is included in the statement regarding U.S. Department of Education and REAP.” In March 2021 the Religious Exemption Accountability Project filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education, claiming the department’s religious exemption allows schools that receive federal dollars to unconstitutionally discriminate against LGBTQ students. The plantiffs included 33 LGBTQ students or former students at religious colleges and universities that receive U.S. federal funding. Two of those plaintiffs were students at Dordt (since graduated).  None of the schools are party to the suit. At the time of the filing, Dordt said, “There are statements made in the complaint that do not represent the practices of Dordt University. As a Christian university, Dordt does maintain community standards which are obedient to Scripture. We seek to live these out with grace and truth—modeling Christ-like behavior in all areas of campus life. We pledge to extend compassion, care, support, and accountability for each member of our campus community as we develop into effective Kingdom citizens.”   

A June 2021 letter on matters pertaining to human sexuality sent to faculty and staff from Dordt’s board of trustees and President Erik Hoekstra is also available online

Campus Pride released its list as schools like Seattle Pacific University have faced backlash from students protesting policies they say are discriminatory toward LGBTQ people. A group of students, faculty, staff, and alumni from SPU filed a lawsuit Sept. 12 against the university’s board of trustees for upholding an employment policy barring people in same-sex relationships from being hired for full-time jobs at the institution.

Dordt is the only Christian Reformed-connected school on Campus Pride’s U.S.-only list. A little over a third of the schools on the list (81) are members of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, an association for Christian higher education, which has a global membership of 185 institutions. The CRC’s Calvin University and CRC-affiliated schools Kuyper College and Trinity Christian College are CCCU members but are not on Campus Pride’s list.

© 2022 Religion News Service; additional reporting by Alissa Vernon, news editor

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