Title IX Revision Threatens Religious Liberty for Thousands of Students

Written by Jorge Gomez

First Liberty and legal experts around the country are sounding the alarm about the Biden administration’s recently proposed changes to Title IX.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a civil rights law that protects students from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. It was signed into law to give female athletes equal opportunity and treatment in sports, from elementary schools to colleges.

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) issued new regulations that prohibit discrimination based on a person’s “gender identity.”

The new rules, which take effect in August, redefine the prohibition on sex discrimination for schools and education programs that receive federal funding, including K-12 schools and colleges and universities. Under the new interpretation of the Title IX protections, those rules now apply not just to “sex” but also to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

According to the executive summary of the Title IX revision, the changes are meant to “clarify that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

This is a radical redefinition. The proposed changes will pressure students and teachers of faith to hide their religious beliefs or risk discipline or termination.

Deputy General Counsel Justin Butterfield—Chair of First Liberty’s Education Practice Group—explains:

“The Biden administration’s new rule puts thousands of students and teachers with religious beliefs that disagree with the Left’s definitions of sex and gender at risk. First Liberty has already had to come to the defense of a college biology professor who was fired from his job for teaching biological facts about sex. No rule should make America’s teachers and students fear advocating for their deepest convictions.” 

CatholicVote Director of Governmental Affairs Tom McClusky said the new rule “effectively eliminates religious protections.” Dr. Albert Mohler— president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—echoed that same concern in a podcast episode earlier this week. He referred to this regulatory change as a “vast explosion” and an “earthquake” in the culture:

“It’s clear that the Biden administration is entirely committed to and sold out to the goals of the LGBTQ movement. That movement is not going to be satisfied until all of that is explicit. But sadly enough, what was handed down on Friday probably will give them just about everything they demand. That is because when it comes to the protected classes under Title IX, what the Biden administration did in the announcement on Friday was to insert the words “gender identity” in terms of the groups that are now to be protected by Title IX. That’s a vast explosion. That is a major development, an earthquake in the cultural scene, because what the Biden administration did was simply to bypass virtually all the arguments and simply say, ‘Gender identity is now a matter of a protected class.’”

These proposed changes are harmful to religious liberty, but they’re not the first time Biden’s DoE has attacked Title IX protections. First Liberty submitted an extensive public comment opposing similar rule changes proposed by the DoE back in 2022.

At that time, the administration announced rules that would give federal bureaucrats broad powers to bully and exclude students and teachers with deeply-held religious convictions and who don’t share the administration’s orthodoxy on sexuality and gender.

Our legal team also filed a public comment in 2023 on behalf of Houston Christian University, arguing that Title IX changes would disproportionately burden faith-based schools due to their religious beliefs and practices.

Throughout the last three years, the Biden administration has shown a particular disdain for beliefs of religious Americans, especially if they dare say things the administration doesn’t like. To that end, it has repeatedly used the alphabet soup of federal agencies to target and harass people of faith.

People of faith need to remain vigilant. The record shows the Biden administration is constantly finding new ways to target anyone who wants to live in a manner consistent with their faith. It’s clear that many of its policy revisions have little to do with equality before the law or stopping discrimination. They have everything to do with making people of faith conform to a radical ideology.

This article was originally published at FirstLiberty.org.

Jorge Gomez is the Senior Manager of Content Strategy for First Liberty Institute. He has previously worked as a communications and messaging strategist for faith-based nonprofits and conservative policy organizations. He holds a degree in political science from the University of Central Florida and a master’s degree in public policy from Liberty University.