As Title IX interpretations have expanded to include discrimination policies grounded in gender theory, Catholic colleges should have no qualms about claiming constitutionally-protected exemptions, said The Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly in an interview with National Catholic Register.
“Of course these colleges have no interest in sex discrimination. They have had no problems complying with Title IX,” said Reilly. “But now things are changing, and the Obama administration is pushing the extreme gender ideology that Pope Francis has strongly warned against. The law could be used to force practices that violate our beliefs and even natural law, unless religious educators claim the exemption that Congress gave them to uphold the First Amendment.”
The necessity for Catholic colleges to claim exemptions has increased recently, as the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights recently expanded Title IX interpretation to include “discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity,” the Register reported. This interpretation conflicts with a Catholic institution’s responsibility to uphold Church teaching on human sexuality, according to Reilly.
As Reilly noted, Pope Francis has spoken out on the issue of gender theory several times, calling it “an expression of frustration and resignation that aims to erase sexual differentiation because it no longer knows how to come to terms with it.” If acceptance of gender theory becomes widespread in society, “we risk going backward,” said the Holy Father. In another speech, the Pope called gender theory “an error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion,” according to LifeSiteNews.
“The big question is why some Catholic colleges are voluntarily declining to claim the exemption, when discrimination against our beliefs is a very serious prospect,” Reilly noted.
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights dictates that “[a]ll public and private elementary and secondary schools, school districts, colleges, and universities receiving any federal financial assistance … must comply with Title IX.” However, it also stipulates that “[a]n educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization is exempt from Title IX to the extent that the law’s requirements conflict with the organization’s religious tenets.”
Expanded Title IX interpretations have caused concerns for Catholic identity and academic freedom at Catholic colleges. At Marquette University in Milwaukee, the Register reported, “[P]rofessors have complained that the aggressive implementation of Title IX’s expansive interpretations, combined with vague definitions of what constitutes a ‘hostile environment,’ are suppressing their academic freedom to teach Catholic theology in the classroom and promote Marquette’s Catholic identity on campus.”
At other Catholic colleges, the Newman Society has reported on multiple instances of gender theory being promoted and aggressively pushed on campuses, including DePaul University, Fordham University, Georgetown University and Saint Louis University.
In an interview with The Cardinal Newman Society, Abbot Placid Solari, O.S.B., chancellor of Belmont Abbey College noted that such an expansion would “legitimize gender identity issues … abdicat[ing] the responsibility of the college community as a whole to act in accord with its fundamental identity as a community which publicly identifies itself as in communion with the Catholic Church.”
Three Catholic institutions have been granted Title IX exemptions thus far: Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., and St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Okla. Another two universities are in the process of requesting exemptions: the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, and John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, Calif. All of these institutions are recommended in The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.
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