In the summer of 2015, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages, prompting more than 200 religious institutions to seek Title IX exemptions. Gay rights groups have compiled these universities into a shame list, and hope federal funding and other privileges will be revoked.
The exemptions would allow for the universities to hold up their religious policies regarding various issues that Title IX seeks to prevent. Oklahoma Christian University’s exemption is specifically aimed at issues involving gender identity and sexual orientation.
“OC sought the Title IX exemption to proactively protect our religious freedom,” Vice President of Admissions and Marketing Risa Forrester said. “Since the Department of Education granted the exemption almost two years ago, nothing has changed in our policies or in the compassion-filled approach we take with all members of our community.”
Forrester said Oklahoma Christian remains committed to an environment in which all students are valued and treated with respect and love.
“I believe students see that’s what OC is about, and they feel at home here,” Forrester said. “That’s helped our enrollment continue to grow.”
According to The Christian Chronicle, Oklahoma Christian’s exemption only applies to Title IX provisions inconsistent with the university’s religious tenets.
“We continue to have comprehension Title IX staffing, policies and procedures in place to protect all of our students against discrimination and harassment,” Forrester said.
According to the Christian Chronicle, at least six other universities associated with Churches of Christ have also been granted Title IX exemptions, including Lipscomb University, York College and Harding University.
The universities’ Title IX exemptions resulted in gay-rights group Campus Pride releasing a “shame list.” The universities on the list are described as “the absolute worst campuses for LGBTQ youth.”
“Religion-based bigotry is careless and life-threatening,” Shane Windemeyer, executive director of Campus Pride said. “LGBTQ young people face high rates of harassment and violence, especially our trans youth and LGBTQ youth of color. The schools on this list openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth and many of these schools have requested or received Title IX exemptions for no other purpose than to discriminate, expel and ban LGBTQ youth from campus. It is shameful and wrong.”
Listed alphabetically, the list features schools all over the country — including Oklahoma Christian.
“Oklahoma Christian University has qualified for the ‘shame list’ because it holds an exemption to Title IX, allowing the college to discriminate against its students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity while still receiving federal funds,” Campus Pride said.
Large gay-rights groups have called for Christian universities’ eligibility for federal student financial aid to be revoked, as well as their membership in the NCAA to be stripped, according to the Christian Chronicle.
NCAA spokeswoman Gail Dent said in a statement the DOE, not the NCAA, considers and oversees the exemption process.
“The NCAA is a very diverse association of over 1,100 schools that have diverse missions with diverse philosophies and focuses,” Dent said.
Bruce McLarty, president of Harding University, said to the Christian Chronicle he’s concerned about what might happen — but not afraid.
“Christians have always faced opposition,” McLarty said. “We are committed to doing what we believe the Bible teaches us to do.”