Criswell College received notification from the U.S. Department of Education last week that the school’s Title IX exemption request had been granted. Submitted in September of 2015, the request exempts the college from certain elements of Title IX, the civil rights law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in schools that receive federal funding.
Criswell is one of many evangelical schools that has sought exemption in light of the Obama administration’s 2014 reinterpretation of Title IX to include gender identity and sexual orientation.
According to Criswell president Barry Creamer, the government has put undue burden on colleges to seek exemption from a law that should not conflict with religious freedom.
“The government violates constitutionally protected religious liberties when it attempts to prevent a student from receiving federal funds to attend an institution in keeping with his or her religious beliefs,” Creamer said.
Just one day after being notified of the exemption by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report which seemed to condemn schools requesting such exemption on the grounds of religious liberty.
“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance,” said Martin Castro, who was named chairman of the USCCR during President Obama’s first term.
“Our application for a Title IX exemption stems from the belief that every student should possess the freedom to attend a college that represents his or her views, including a traditional view of marriage and sexual orientation,” Creamer added.
Founded in 1970 by then-pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas W.A. Criswell, the college’s mission statement says that the school must maintain “an institutional commitment to biblical inerrancy.” The college’s Articles of Faith are based on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which includes not only an affirmation of biblical inerrancy but a section entitled, “The Family.”
According to this confession, marriage is “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime” and the exclusive “channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards.”
The granting of the college’s exemption request comes on the heels of publicity surrounding a “Shame List” issued by Campus Pride, an LGBTQ advocacy group. Along with eight other Texas schools, Criswell’s inclusion on the list was tied to the school’s request for Title IX exemptions.
Creamer indicated there was no embarrassment on the school’s part from inclusion on such a list.
“We have always been open regarding our views on marriage and gender and feel no shame in an organization publicizing these beliefs,” he said. “We accept that some will never respect these views, but we desire the freedom to hold them in the same way we want to respect and protect the freedom of others to disagree with us.”
While the exemptions allow the school to make distinctions in areas such as admissions, financial aid, and hiring, the president unequivocally condemned bigotry and hatred toward members of the LGBTQ community.
“While we are bound by conviction on these matters, active discrimination, violence, and bullying against members of the LGBTQ community are clear violations of the Christian mandate to love one’s neighbor and have no place in the life of a Christian individual or institution.”
In 2015 Criswell partnered with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to create the Religious Liberty Endowment, which will ultimately eliminate student dependence on federal aid and render the recent exemptions unnecessary. The administration expressed gratitude for the ability to continue operating according to biblical principles in the meantime.
“Being granted these exemptions is a real victory for the college,” said Chief of Staff Daisy Reynolds. “Going forward we want to maintain and propagate the biblical example of traditional family in the midst of a very real and very speedy cultural shift.”