FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

June 8, 2021

 

Contact:

Eugene Patron for CreagerCole • (917) 501-5881, patronjeugene@gmail.com

Cindi Creager, CreagerCole Communications • (646) 279-4559, cindi@creagercole.com

More LGBTQ Students Join Lawsuit Against U.S. Department of Education for Discrimination by Evangelical & LDS Colleges

Religious Exemption Accountability Project Represents 40 Plaintiffs in
20 States in Suit Arguing that Federal Exemptions Granted to Religious Colleges and Universities Are Unconstitutional

The Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP) today filed an amended complaint to its lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education seeking to nullify the religious exemption to Title IX protections. The existing exemption allows faith-based colleges and universities to openly discriminate against LGBTQ students. 

 

The amended complaint has two main purposes:  1) the addition of seven new plaintiffs to the existing lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon; and 2) adding new constitutional claims and claims under the Administrative Procedures Act and Religious Freedom Restoration Act, including for the harm caused by Trump-era regulations that made it easier for colleges to claim religious exemptions while discriminating against LGBTQ students.

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The amended complaint now includes 40 plaintiffs who are a mix of current students (some of whom are using a pseudonym for their safety), recently expelled students, a parent, and recent alumni who suffered conversion therapy and were disciplined by colleges for being LGBTQ. The plaintiffs attend or have attended 28 evangelical & LDS colleges in 20 states.

“Broad religious exemptions to civil rights statutes harm disfavored populations and violate the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection under the law that applies to all Americans, including LGBTQ+ individuals,” said Paul Southwick, Attorney and Director of the Religious Exemption Accountability Project. “Currently, more than 200 religiously affiliated colleges in the United States that receive taxpayer dollars are permitted to broadly discriminate against LGBTQ+ students. Our laws should protect the health and welfare of all students, not perpetuate discrimination that harmfully targets people because of their sexual or gender identity.”

The seven new plaintiffs joining REAP’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education:

  • Devin Bryant + Consolata Bryant:  Devin was a student at Covenant Christian Academy in Texas until expelled by the school. Consolata is his mother. 

  • Saren Craig: Saren attended College of the Ozarks in Missouri. They eventually left Missouri for the Air Force and studied mental health after completing their military service. 

  • Mortimer Halligan: Mortimer is a first-generation student who is leaving  Indiana Wesleyan University. 

  • Jamie Lord: Jamie is a law student at Regent University School of Law in Virginia.

  • Justin & Daniel Tidwell-Davis: Justin and Daniel each went to religious colleges – Justin to Baylor University in Texas and Daniel to Lee University in Tennessee – and after graduating met and married.

 

“I don't want any other students to go through the shame, fear, and isolation that I endured as a student at Baylor; that’s why I'm joining the REAP lawsuit,” said Justin Tidwell-Davis. “LGBTQ+ students deserve to feel safe at their schools, religious or not, and they should have all of the opportunities their straight peers enjoy: to thrive academically, to make friends, to be involved in campus life, and to be accepted and supported – instead of the antagonism, and mental and emotional distress they currently endure.” 

 

“I am joining the REAP lawsuit because everyone should be able to attend a religious university if they feel called to do so,” said Jamie Lord. “Regent University School of Law has created and continued to allow an environment full of discrimination that will permanently affect students for the rest of our lives. Colleges and universities should not be able to hide behind religion to excuse their hateful behavior toward students because of their sexuality. It is time to hold these institutions accountable and have them treat all students with dignity as they obtain their education.”

Resources:

  • Link to Amended Complaint, filed June 7, 2021.

  • Press release of March 30, 2021, announcing class action lawsuit (with link to court filing).

 

About:

The Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP) empowers queer, trans and non-binary students at more than 200 taxpayer-funded religious colleges and universities that actively discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Through civil rights litigation, documentary film, oral history, research and public policy, we work towards a world where LGBTQ students on all campuses are treated equally, with safety and respect.
www.thereap.org  

The Religious Exemption Accountability Project is a program sponsored by the national nonprofit, Soulforce.  www.soulforce.org