Students march in a candlelight vigil at Azusa Pacific University in Los Angeles, CA, 2015.
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What is Title IX?
Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.
Historically Title IX has protected people such as parents, pregnant women, and victims of sexual violence from discrimination in areas such as housing, admissions, educational opportunities, and athletics.
What is a Title IX waiver?
Title IX contains an exception for any educational institution controlled by a religious organization if the enforcement conflicts with “the religious tenets” of the organization. This exception by the school is called a exemption, or a waiver.
247 schools have applied for waivers since 1972 when Title IX became law allowing religious schools to do things such as expel or discipline female students who are pregnant out of wedlock, had abortions, or only hire men at all male seminaries.
In 2014 the Department of Education extended Title IX discrimination prohibitions to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity. Religious schools started applying for religious exemptions so they can expel/refuse to admit/limit educational opportunities to LGBTQ students and bar transgender students from housing and access to facilities.
Now those applications for waivers are moot; all religious schools have been granted a blanket Title IX waiver to discriminate against women, queer, and trans staff and students without repercussion..
My school doesn't have a waiver. Why does this matter?
There are over 200 schools in the U.S. that have some sort of Title IX waiver that allows administration to discriminate on the basis of their fundamentalist values.
We know that schools are receiving extreme amounts of pressure to file for waivers in the face of religious exemption laws -- from their affiliate denominations, their Board of Trustees, their internal legal counsel, their accreditation boards, and from the public.
We also know that LGBTQI students working in religious contexts are often at risk of harassment, discrimination, receiving unsuitable housing options, job loss, expulsion, being forcibly outed, and other kinds of violence.
Our most vulnerable students are trans students of color, who are often socially isolated from their peers and considered particularly threatening to the theologies of these fundamentalist institutions. So whether or not your campus has a waiver, we know that we won't be able to keep each other safe from threats of expulsion or other forms of discrimination unless students across the country boldly show up for each other in solidarity.
Even secular schools are facing challenges. Title IX protections for trans students have been rolled back across the country for all schools. With DeVos and Falwell, Jr. leading on education, we can expect to see an inhospitable environment for all gender justice issues in education.
I'm not a person of faith and/or I don't go to these schools. Why does this matter?
Title IX waivers and the ease with which schools can file for them based on religious exemption are absolutely linked to the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) and the burgeoning state RFRAs that are being levied in support of actors like Kim Davis, who gained notoriety in 2015 for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
Christian colleges are one of many stages on which we are seeing the fight against RFRAs pan out. Furthermore, Christian colleges are training grounds for future clergy, policy makers, and other culture changers whose frameworks will otherwise go unchallenged. In this political climate and election year, it is incredibly important that we support students who are fighting against fundamentalism in their own backyards.
Sign our statement of solidarity with affected students here.
What are the demands of #GiveBackIX?
We believe in a world where:
Safe faith-based learning environments for queer and trans youth abound, where our people can thrive educationally and spiritually
Our schools are transparent about any and all decisions that affect the well-being of their student bodies, faculty members, and staff.
Our expressions and works of faith that center life, justice, marginalized people, and abundance are free to be publicly practiced -- including LGBTQI-affirming theologies.
As such, we demand from our schools that:
A public condemnation of the gutting of Title IX.
Publish a clearly documented and accessible processes of how they handle Title IX complaints
Institute policies that clearly center the safety of women, queer, and trans students on campus
And we demand from the NCAA:
A public condemnation of the gutting of Title IX.
Refuse to host games at schools that do not comply with all of Title IX.
Restrict membership to schools that, in complying with Title IX, also align themselves with the stated values of diversity, fairness, and inclusion of the NCAA.
How can I get involved?
If you're a student or interested community member and want to create an action in your area with #GiveBackIX, reach out to Soulforce at email@example.com to get connected. Or register below to get started.
If you are not a student but have legal or cultural expertise in Title IX law, we'd love to hear from you. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with all requests.
Sign our Statement of Solidarity to send to students at affected colleges around the U.S.