What is a Religious Exemption?

Despite Title IX’s clear mandate that all colleges and universities must ensure basic protections for LGBTQ students in order to receive federal funding, many religious colleges have claimed a religious exemption – formally requesting that the U.S. Department of Education allows them to disregard existing protections for students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

These so-called religious exemptions permit more than 200+ religiously-affiliated colleges and universities nationwide to legitimize discrimination and abuse of their LGBTQ students – while still receiving billions in federal funding.

Though, in some instances, commonsense religious exemptions help to safeguard constitutional protections of freedom of religion – ensuring, for instance, that no church has to violate their own beliefs in a house of worship – they have often been denied to religious colleges who have historically claimed religious exemptions to permit discrimination on the basis of race or sex.

Colleges and universities, despite some having a religious affiliation, are not churches. They are taxpayer-funded educational institutions open to the public – and as such, should be subject to the same non-discrimination laws as everyone else.

Protecting religious freedom does not guarantee the the right of a taxpayer-funded institution to claim religion in order to justify harmful anti-LGBTQ policies that result in forced conversion therapy, expulsion of LGBTQ students, denial of admission to LGBTQ students and the disregard of an LGBTQ student’s claim of sexual assault.