Some Christian colleges are constantly trying to limit the rights of LGBT students and teachers, but one school in Tennessee has reached a new low.
Carson-Newman University, a private Southern Baptist college, successfully filed a waiver granting the school an exemption to Title IX, which normally protects students against discrimination. The university can now legally ban any students whose “lifestyles” aren’t aligned with its values. This category includes, but isn’t limited to, LGBT students, students who have had abortions, pregnant students, and unwed parents.
“This is who we are as a Christian university,” Dr. Randall O’Brien, president of the university, told CBS affiliate WVLT on Monday. “These are our religious principles. And in a changing world, we would like to reaffirm that this is who we are and who we intend to be.”
This is “who they are”: a school committed to rejecting students outright based on bigotry disguised as a religious principle. Unfortunately, Carson-Newman isn’t the only school that’s fighting to exempt itself from basic nondiscrimination laws:
O’Brien’s legal counsel encouraged him to file the waiver, which exempts the school from allowing students protections usually afforded to them under Title IX. The university’s president claimed doing so only “strengthen[s] our First Amendment rights.”
These “strengthened” rights include not only the ability to ban gay students, but also unwed mothers, women who’ve had abortions and even pregnant students, according to WVLT. And Carson-Newman is hardly the only college now able to do so: The university’s legal counsel filed similar waivers for many other Christian schools, according to the same report, and 30 others are similarly exempt from Title IX.
This is a huge blow to LGBT students everywhere, particularly religious LGBT students who often make spaces for themselves at religious schools. To be told that a basic part of your identity is fundamentally incompatible with the “principles” of a university is devastating — and the worst part is that there are certainly more schools about to do the same.
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