I. What is Title IX?
Title IX states that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” It was passed in 1972 not because, by that time, any colleges were preventing women from enrolling, but in order to force colleges to allocate resources—coaches, scholarship money, locker rooms, equipment, and practice facilities—equally to both male and female athletic programs. Prior to that time, college athletics had favored male programs, so the main purpose of Title IX was to promote female athletics.
Title IX had the unintended consequence of eliminating hundreds, perhaps thousands, of male athletic teams. It put quality varsity athletic programs out of reach for some smaller schools, who would now have to double up on every such program by creating a female equivalent program. For larger universities with established football programs, Title IX created a slightly different problem: because football requires a lot of coaches, training facilities, and scholarships, and has no female equivalent, in order to balance resource allocation between male and female programs, it was necessary to eliminate other male sports teams. As a result, sports such as men’s swimming, men’s diving, men’s gymnastics and wrestling have been decimated. For example, more than 450 wrestling teams vanished, almost 60% of the wrestling programs that had existed in 1972.
Because it is intrusive social engineering with significant negative consequences, and its goals have long since been met, Title IX should be repealed. At a minimum, football should be exempted, so that other (less lucrative, tradition-laden and alumni-demanded) male sports programs do not have to be eliminated in order to equalize resources between male and female athletic programs.
II. The New Interpretation of Title IX
But instead of repealing or reforming Title IX, the Obama Administration has issued new regulations regarding its interpretation. In April, 2014, they announced that henceforth they would interpret Title IX to prohibit discrimination not only on the basis of sex, but also on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, and disability. Historically, regulations regarding the implementation of Title IX have dealt mostly with athletics. Not so this latest tranche of regulations, which would allow transgender students and faculty to use the restrooms, dormitories, and locker rooms of whichever gender they identify with. It would also allow them to dress, express themselves, and be referred to with the pronoun of the gender they identify with.
According to material published by the National Center for Transgender Equality, an advocacy group that works closely with the Obama Administration, Title IX now confers the following rights:
- You have the right to equal educational opportunities regardless of your gender identity or expression or your race, nationality, or disability. This includes not being punished or excluded from school activities or events because you are transgender or gender non-conforming.
- You have the right to present yourself in a way that is consistent with your gender identity, so long as you follow rules for how to dress that apply to all students.
- You have the right to use restrooms and other facilities that are consistent with your gender identity, and can’t be forced to use separate restrooms.
- You have the right to join or start a Gay-Straight Alliance or Pride Alliance, and to have your group treated like other student groups.
So the Obama Administration is using a law that was intended to promote female athletics as a way to enforce the new gender confusion.
III. How are Christian Colleges Reacting?
Christian colleges have recognized that the new interpretation of Title IX poses a threat to their ability to uphold Christian standards of behavior and deportment. Many have reacted by asking for religious exemption from Title IX. According to data compiled by the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-gay activism/lobbying group that works closely with the Obama Administration, 13 schools applied for a religious exemption in 2014, and another 43 schools applied for the exemption in 2015.
Of these, 23 received an exemption pertaining to sexual orientation, and 33 schools received an exemption pertaining to gender identity. It is interesting that more schools have received an exemption for gender identity than for sexual orientation. It seems that quite a few Christian schools find the attempt to erode the concept that there are only two sexes and that gender is tied to one’s biological sex to be more problematic and transgressive of Christian values than homosexual orientation.
IV. How are Seventh-day Adventist Colleges Reacting?
So far, no Seventh-day Adventist college has applied for a religious exemption from Title IX. Instead, Adventist schools are inserting language into their non-discrimination policies substantially similar to the following language taken from Loma Linda’s website:
The University believes that Title IX regulations are subject to constitutional guarantees against unreasonable entanglement with or infringements on the religious teachings and practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The University expects students and employees to uphold biblical principles of morality and deportment as interpreted by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The University claims exemptions from the provisions of Title IX set forth in 34 CFR Secs. 106.12 (a)(b), 106.21, 106.31, 106.39, 106.40, 106.51, and 106.57.
34 CFR 106.12(a), a part of the Code of Federal Regulations, states that the regulations do “not apply to an educational institution which is controlled by a religious organization to the extent application of this part would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization” and Section 106.12(b) provides that, “an educational institution which wishes to claim” the exemption “shall do so by submitting in writing to the Assistant Secretary a statement by the highest ranking official of the institution, identifying the provisions of this part which conflict with a specific tenet of the religious organization.” So, in effect, Loma Linda is exempting itself from the requirement of applying for a religious exemption. La Sierra has similar boilerplate on its website.
One reason to rest on boilerplate such as the foregoing rather than make a formal application for a religious exemption is that by making such an application the school may be deemed to have submitted to the regulatory scheme, and thus to have waived the right to challenge its legality. The administration’s new interpretation of Title IX has not been tested in court, but probably will be. “The Department of Education dramatically exceeded their authority,” said Greg Baylor, a senior attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal defense fund, to Newsweek Magazine. “The inclusion of transgender people is against the constitution.”
The congress and president who passed and signed a 1972 law to promote female college athletics never intended to promote homosexuality or gender confusion; to interpret the law they passed as doing so is to legislate under the guise of interpreting legislation. So it would seem that a legal challenge to the Obama Administration’s new interpretation must succeed. But, unfortunately, reading new meanings into old statutes is a species of lawlessness very popular with America’s judiciary. Last year the Supreme Court purported to discover in the 14th Amendment, a post-Civil War amendment intended to ensure freed slaves the equal protection of the laws, a right of persons of the same sex to marry. So the novelty and lawlessness of the Obama Administration’s new interpretation of Title IX are no guarantee that it will lose a legal challenge in court.
V. Where do we Go From Here?
How are we to respond to this executive overreach? First, at the spring meeting, the General Conference should vote a statement affirming the sanctity of God's created sexual order, that there are only two sexes, and a person's gender corresponds to his birth sex. Second, the General Conference Education Department, under Lisa Beardsley, and the North American Division VP for Education, Larry Blackmer, should develop a legal strategy for denominational schools to cope with the new federally-enforced sexual paganism. This may include adopting a statement regarding religious objections to the new interpretation of Title IX, and reserving the right to apply for a religious exemption if a legal challenge to the new interpretation fails. Finally, Adventist Christians need to understand that they can and should vote for candidates who will not promote the new gender confusion nor use the federal bureaucracy as a cudgel against those who believe in and would uphold the created sexual order.