In a major victory for religious liberty, the Biden administration on Friday agreed to automatically exempt religious schools from a new interpretation of Title IX that had threatened to halt funding for lunch programs if schools held to biblical standards on sexuality and marriage.
The U.S Department of Agriculture, in a guidance document, said Friday that Title IX includes some exceptions, including “one permitting an institution to be exempt on religious grounds if there is a conflict between Title IX and a school’s governing religious tenets.”
At issue is the Biden administration’s interpterion of Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits discrimination in education facilities on the basis of sex. The Biden administration interprets Title IX as also prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Grant Park Christian Academy, a religious school in Tampa, Fla., had sued the Biden administration in federal court, asserting the new rule violates federal law and the school’s religious liberty rights under the U.S. Constitution.
The office of Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried had told the school it must comply with the Biden administration’s interpretation of Title IX in order to receive funding through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program.
Fried and the USDA agreed earlier this month to exempt Grant Park. The new guidance will expect all religious schools that hold to traditional beliefs.
The school’s ministry statement says the word “marriage” has only “one legitimate meaning, and that is marriage sanctioned by God, which joins one man and one woman.”
Alliance Defending Freedom represented the school. ADF called the Biden administration’s interpretation a “radical expansion” of Title IX.
“On behalf of the students at Grant Park Christian Academy in Tampa, we filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration 16 days ago, and in that time, we are pleased to see the administration grant not only that Christian school’s request, but rightly honor the religious beliefs of every other religious school in the country by allowing them to continue operating according to the core tenets of their faith,” said Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Erica Steinmiller-Perdomo. “While it shouldn’t have taken a federal lawsuit, at least now, all religious schools like Grant Park Christian Academy who rely on the USDA’s funding to serve nutritious meals to kids in need can continue this vital service in their communities.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Monkey Business Images
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.