The Human Rights Campaign and a New Waive of Intolerance

Barb Wire

It looks like the Department of Education got a new boss: the Human Rights Campaign. The far-Left bullies are back at it, pulling the strings of their puppets in the Obama administration — this time over private religious exemptions. Although it’s none of HRC’s business, the organization has made a point of sticking its nose in the First Amendment debate blazing through college campuses. Like most pockets of society, the clash between religious freedom and sexuality has landed on the doorstep of higher education, which is especially problematic for schools with a conservative biblical worldview.

When President Obama started strong-arming the education system to adopt his radical views of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” faith-based schools were put in the awful position of embracing things like gender-free bathrooms and sports teams. Throwing around Title IX as an excuse, DOE officials are insisting that “No person… shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participating in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Two years ago, the president decided to interpret that as “transgender discrimination” too, even though it would have never crossed anyone’s mind in 1972 that such behavior warranted its own special category. Fortunately, Title IX does clearly offer religious exemption for schools with a moral code that’s in direct conflict with the administration’s twisted agenda. When the president started cracking down on universities to comply last year, a flood of colleges applied for waivers. By April 1 of this year, a whopping 232 had won exemptions (with 31 still pending). But to LGBT activists, who believe every American should be forced to embrace their behavior as normative, it was cause for an all-out smear campaign.

Late last week, the groups coaxed the Department of Education to expose the hundreds of universities with a “Shame List” of anyone who asked to be excused from an ideology that the American College of Pediatricians calls “child abuse.” “We have been alarmed by the growing trend of schools quietly seeking the right to discriminate against LGBT students, and not disclosing that information publicly,” HRC President Chad Griffin said. “We are encouraged that the Department of Education is answering our call for greater transparency to help ensure no student unknowingly enrolls in a school that intends to discriminate against them. We believe that religious liberty is a bedrock principle of our nation, however, faith should never be used as a guise for discrimination.”

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Hoping to heap pressure on the schools, HRC tried to lean on the NCAA to do its bidding. If the sports association would “divest from all religious-based campuses” like the groups wanted, then more colleges might reconsider. Sound familiar? It should. These are the very same tactics the LGBT lobby is using in places like North Carolina and Mississippi to demand special privileges (which also happen to be wildly unpopular and unsafe). This time, however, the NCAA refused, arguing that it doesn’t have the authority over Title IX. As usual, instead of the force of law, the Obama administration is threatening a bureaucratic nightmare for colleges who don’t comply.

Since the DOE can’t use federal funds as leverage in private schools that don’t get many (if any!), the agency is taking a different tact: burying them in unnecessary paperwork. As usual, the reporting requirements came from the unofficial advisors at HRC, who think the government should make administrators publish: “the number of exemptions,” “the scope” of each exemptions, and “which Title IX provisions are not exempted.” The bottom line is this: no one should have to get a waiver to exercise their First Amendment rights! The fact that the government is even using these intimidation tactics is cause for congressional action.

Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) agrees and has been at the forefront of pushing back on the DOE and Department of Justice for elbowing their way onto college campuses. “… [T]he Department of Education has been bullying schools to comply with policies that simply do not have the force of law,” he argued on the Senate floor. “Instead of promulgating rules that conflict with congressional intent, the Department of Education has skirted the rule-making process altogether by issuing guidance documents they call ‘Dear Colleague’ letters.” No school or student should be harassed for holding or expressing views protected by the Constitution. If the president won’t rein in his Education officials, then Congress must!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Tony Perkins
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. (Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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