The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has launched three new investigations, bringing the total number of investigations launched this year to six overall, at religiously affiliated colleges for alleged violations of student rights. LGBTQ.
The three most recent universities to be investigated are: Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia; La Sierra University, in Riverside, California; and Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California. OCR previously opened three investigations at other religiously affiliated schools, beginning with Clarks Summit University, in South Abingdon Township, Pennsylvania, and Lincoln Christian University, in Lincoln, Illinois, in January, and Colorado Christian University, in Lakewood, Colorado, in april.
The investigations were launched in response to complaints filed by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, alleging that the universities violated students’ rights under Title IX when it discriminated against them based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Several students filed a lawsuit last year challenging the Department of Education’s habit of granting Title IX exemptions to religiously affiliated colleges and universities, arguing that the process encourages discrimination against LGBTQ students attending those institutions.
For example, in the complaint against Liberty University, REAP alleges that Liberty regularly discriminates against LGBTQ students through its policies and practices, including its statement on sexuality and relationships in the Student Honor Code and the group’s role on campus Armor bearers. The complaint also alleges that between 2008 and 2012, the school discriminated against Luke Wilson, a former student and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, by classifying his LGBTQ identity as an Honor Code violation and pressuring him to undergo therapy. of conversion if he wished to avoid punishment.
“I am beyond delighted that Liberty is (finally) being investigated for its conversion therapy program, a program that has been in operation for over a decade,” Wilson said in a statement. “As a survivor of Liberty’s individual conversion therapy program and as one who attended one of the group conversion therapy meetings on campus, I have since worked to raise awareness of this heinous practice that has devastated the lives of countless queer students from Liberty. .”
Similar policies are in place or have been enacted at the other schools being investigated. For example, La Sierra University, which is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has policies and practices, including in its student handbook, that support the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine on homosexuality, which is that sexual intimacy belongs only within the confines of a one man, one woman relationship. The university has been accused of discriminating against LGBTQ students by refusing to recognize the LGBTQ student group on campus, and against one student in particular, by failing to act after a faculty member and visiting professor made homophobic comments and derogatory remarks about LGBTQ people in class. .
Azusa Pacific University is under investigation not only for its policies and Student Handbook guidelines prohibiting sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage, but also for refusing to recognize the LGBTQ student group on campus, changes made to its policy banning same-sex dating and a letter sent to the university about the policy change that left one particular LGBTQ student in fear of being punished and having his scholarship revoked.
Colorado Christian University is under investigation not only for its policies prohibiting and punishing same-sex romantic relationships, but it is also accused of discriminating against a lesbian student by placing her on academic probation, removing her from housing to students and require him to attend conversion therapy and tutoring. meetings and block access to LBGTQ affirming resources on University wi-fi.
Clarks Summit University is under investigation for a policy that prohibits students from engaging in same-sex relationships and “cross-dressing or other deliberately gender-discordant actions at birth,” as well as for allegedly discriminating against a gay student by expelling him and refuse to do it. allow you to re-enroll or graduate. Meanwhile, Lincoln Christian University is under investigation for allegedly discriminating against a transgender student by ordering her to withdraw from classes or face disciplinary action for her gender non-conformity.
Both Lincoln Christian and Clarks Summit have already claimed religious exemptions from Title IX, which would allow them to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity due to their religious beliefs opposing homosexuality and gender nonconformity. Some other religious universities have previously requested exemptions for other actions consistent with their stated religious beliefs, such as punishing people who have had abortions or become pregnant out of wedlock.
The six investigations into the universities are still ongoing.