FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 2023
In Unprecedented Move, U.S. Department of Education Gives Baylor University Religious Exemption from Sexual Harassment Regulations
In letters made public for the first time on August 2, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education has granted Baylor University a religious exemption from Title IX’s regulations prohibiting sexual harassment. No university has ever requested such an exemption in the history of Title IX.
Veronica Bonifacio Penales, an LGBTQ+ student who graduated from Baylor this past May, filed a Title IX complaint in 2021 accusing Baylor of tolerating sexual harassment. Veronica’s complaint, filed by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP), was opened for federal investigation earlier this year, giving rise to Baylor’s religious exemption request.
Veronica: “I am saddened by Baylor’s lack of integrity and accountability to their students. I know many will not feel safe returning to campus, and rightfully so. If Baylor believes it has a religious liberty right to allow us to be harassed, there truly are no protections left for us.”
Whether Veronica’s Title IX complaint will now be dismissed by the Department of Education, remains to be seen. Two other LGBTQ+ alumni of Baylor also have active Title IX complaints currently under federal investigation.
Through its letter, dated July 25, 2023, the Department granted Baylor University a religious exemption from other Title IX regulations as well, though these other, non-harassment related exemptions have been granted to other religious universities in the past.
Baylor’s letter requesting the religious exemption, and the Department of Education’s letter granting the exemption, can be found here: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/correspondence/other.html
Paul Carlos Southwick, the Director of REAP, responds: “This unprecedented move makes Baylor unsafe for LGBTQIA+ students and is truly shocking. For the first time in Title IX’s history, a federally-funded university has been given special permission, by the Biden Administration no less, to allow its LGBTQIA+ students to be sexually harassed. Any reasonable person can see that this coddling of religious extremists has gone too far.”
Moreover, this religious exemption has been given to Baylor University, an institution with a long history of sexual assault cover-ups and non-compliance with Title IX. Fall semester classes at Baylor start on August 21.