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Increase in Title IX exemptions for religious schools linked to transgender discrimination

Religious schools that receive federal funding are avidly trying to get exempted from Title IX so that they can discriminate against transgender students even as they continue to suck up taxpayer dollars. 

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education, sports, and other activities, though applications for exemptions weren’t frequently sought in the past. But ever since a pair of discrimination cases in 2013 and 2014 interpreted the law to apply to transgender students, religious schools have increasingly applied to be exempted from it, reports Liam Stack.

The uptick of exemptions was earlier reported by The Column, a news organization in Minnesota, which published a list of the approved schools last week.

The Column said its list was drawn from documents received through a Freedom of Information Act request, which included exemption applications from more than 30 schools, 27 of which were approved. The status of the remaining five was uncertain.

Here’s a look at why many of those exemptions were granted.

In a January 2015 letter to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, Dr. William K. Thierfelder, the president of Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic school in North Carolina, cited the California case as one reason he was applying for a Title IX exemption “due to the religious beliefs of our institution.”

“The school district in that dispute was ordered to allow a female student presenting herself as male to use the restroom, locker room and living accommodations of her choice, and to participate in boys’ athletic programs,” Dr. Thierfelder wrote. “We would not be able to make similar accommodations consistent with our Catholic beliefs.”

Among those beliefs, he said, was a rejection of the idea that the “resolution of tension between one’s biological sex and the experience of gender” can be found through gender reassignment surgery or the “adoption of a psychological identity” typically associated with the opposite sex.

One month later, the Office for Civil Rights agreed to exempt Belmont Abbey from 10 separate provisions of Title IX that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, including employment, the admission of students, housing and the provision of facilities like restrooms and locker rooms.

In other words, Belmont Abbey is free to discriminate in the name of religion because it’s prejudiced against transgender students. Seems like exactly what Title IX was supposed to prevent.

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