Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a motion to intervene in a “radical” lawsuit attacking the religious freedom of both religious colleges and students attending these schools, ADF senior counsel David Cortman told the Daily Caller News Foundation Monday.
Former and current students of evangelical colleges filed a lawsuit last week against the Department of Education asking that a Title IX law that gives exemptions to religious educational institutions be declared unconstitutional.
The law currently forbids educational institutions receiving federal funds to discriminate on the basis of sex but exempts religious groups if the law “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”
ADF filed a motion to intervene in this class action lawsuit Friday on behalf of Corban University, William Jessup University, and Phoenix Seminary. The lawsuit was filed by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project in the U.S. District Court of Oregon on March 29.
Cortman stressed how “radical and broad this request is.”
“It attacks every single religious school in the entire country,” he told the DCNF. “It seeks to undo protections for religious colleges and universities to be able to teach and operate according to their own religious beliefs. So it basically says that both the school and the student gets penalized if you continue to abide by and teach your religious faith, or you have to renounce those beliefs to participate in the program that everybody else gets to participate in.”
“So the ironic thing in this lawsuit, it actually creates constitutional violations,” he continued. “It doesn’t solve them. It creates constitutional violations by discriminating against the schools for operating according to their faith.”
The motion to intervene notes that though Title IX “generally forbids differential treatment based on sex,” this prohibition does not apply to religious education institutions if it conflicts with their religious tenets.
“Religious Schools are educational institutions controlled by religious organizations. They are exempt from Title IX and its accompanying regulations to the extent those laws are interpreted to curtail Religious Schools’ freedom to act in accordance with their religious convictions,” the motion said.
“And Religious Schools’ sincere religious beliefs conflict with application of Title IX to the extent that Title IX’s definition of ‘sex’ is interpreted to include ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity,’” the motion continued. “As such, Religious Schools directly benefit from the Religious Exemption, and disposing of this action could significantly impair their statutory and constitutional rights.”
Senior Counsel Cortman told the DCNF that the lawsuit is not only punishing religious schools, but that it’s also punishing students who choose to go to a religious school that follows their own religious beliefs.
“The student is penalized by not being able to receive any financial aid at all, whether that’s grants or loans or any type of financial aid,” Cortman said. “This does tremendous harm to any student that decides to attend a religious school that abides by their beliefs.”
The lawsuit will have a “large impact” on religious freedom, he said, highlighting recent “attacks on religious freedom” through President Joe Biden’s executive orders and through Democratic support for the Equality Act.
The rights of religious schools are at stake, Cortman said, and ADF is “asking for the court to allow them to participate, to defend the right to be able to operate according to their faith.”