Off To College? Are You Ashamed? (Part 2)

This continues from Part 1 a discussion about private colleges and universities obtaining religious exemptions to legally discriminate against students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and against their faculty and employees with whom they differ, straight or not. We began with The Shame List put out by Campus Pride showing which institutions are complicit, and threw in a short refresher course on the actual meaning of freedom of religion.

Photo by Francisco Osorio Flickr/creative commons

Photo by Francisco Osorio
Flickr/creative commons

Even if you do not attend one of these colleges, you should first be appalled by the power over sanity that our government continues to bestow on religiously purposed organizations. We are already quite familiar with the religion lobby’s success in quashing birth control and abortion access through similar exemptions, or “carve outs,” that legalize discrimination.

The Shame List of schools demonstrates yet another example of religious zealots exploiting government to opt out of constitutional human rights.

If you are a student at one of these colleges or not, you are right to be worried about the real pain and pressure this puts on your peers whether or not they are LGBT. Think of the 100s of LGBT students right now who are locked in the closet on these campuses. What are the clear and present dangers they must deal with daily? How will those nurtured by this hateful discrimination interact with you in the work force and in the community after college?

If you are just a tax-payer you should be very concerned if state money is being given to a private college that wants exemptions from established lawful protections for LGBT people, who are covered by Title IX.

If you are an employee or a faculty member at one of these colleges you should be just as concerned because this discrimination often extends to “discipline, admissions, hiring, and employment decisions, in matters such as employment leaves for pregnancy, childbirth, and elective termination of pregnancy, or on the basis of pre-marital sex, unmarried pregnancy, extramarital sex . . .” For more, read Andy Birkey’s “Dozens of Christian schools win Title IX waivers to ban LGBT Students.”

Academe is about knowledge and about facts. The very definition of a university is the open exchange of ideas among equals. These are the two things these schools fear the most because both can easily undo the illogic underpinning their bigotry.

Campus Pride is to be commended in its efforts, not just in exposing these fake colleges, but in its efforts to create change by building activist channels right on these campuses. The organization recently partnered with Faith In America to launch the #LGBTQNotaSin Campaign, aiming to reduce the stigma and increase visibility of LGBT-affirming Christians.

A December 2015 report by the Human Rights Campaign, “Hidden Discrimination: Title IX Religious Exemptions Putting LGBT Students At Risk” called on the US Department of Education to take action on the issue citing the work of Campus Pride.

California is one state that’s trying to do something about this, putting forth legislation that would remind these schools that they still must obey state non-discrimination laws in order to continue to receive any state funding whatsoever, including state loans and grants for tuition. The new law would also force them to make their discrimination policy available to the public, including in their marketing materials; and to file the same information with the state’s Student Aid Commission where their school will go on a publicly available list with the reasoning behind their requested exemption. Talk about shame. Hoping it will be effective although ideologues rarely have any shame.

Be outraged if you or your child is attending one these schools or you know someone who is. Maybe they had a choice, and maybe they didn’t. Either way they deserve our support and dedication to rolling back these unnecessary and specious incursions into civic law at the whim of a bunch of religious extremists (almost always old, white men).

Maybe you didn’t know that institutions you may have once trusted have become pockets of bigotry and discrimination. Support Campus Pride, work within your own religious organization, and make yourself heard if you are taxpayer who doesn’t support legalizing LGBT discrimination.



Alison Gardner