Title IX Comes for Christian Schools
Sometimes, scrolling through the news, you come across a story so ludicrous, so extreme, it seems like someone must have made it up to prove a point. Take, for example, the recent situation at Grant Park Christian Academy in Tampa, where the federal government was threatening to take away school lunches for underprivileged children unless the school allowed, among other things, male students to share lockers, showers, and bathrooms with female students. For Grant Park and other Christian schools and universities that have chosen to uphold their deeply held beliefs, reality is proving crazier than fiction.
The Biden administration has proposed changes to the language of Title IX, a civil rights law designed to prevent sex-based discrimination. The administration is trying to change the meaning of the word “sex” to include “gender identity and sexual orientation.” This seemingly small change would set off a cascade of problems, as it would compel all Americans—regardless of their deeply held beliefs about the nature of sex and gender—to assent to the current radical view that maleness and femaleness are just a matter of individual expression.
Before looking at Grant Park’s specific situation, it’s worth clarifying that we don’t have to speculate about the problems this change would cause. From local laws that treat “sex” and “gender identity” as interchangeable to previous federal-level efforts, we have plenty of examples of just how dystopian the situation becomes for everyday Americans.
In 2021, President Biden’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued an order that reinterpreted “sex” to mean “gender identity,” just like the administration is trying to do in Title IX. One Christian college realized quickly what this would mean for them: Because the department chose to apply the order to the Fair Housing Act, Christian colleges and universities are required to house students in accordance with their “gender identity”—not their biological sex.
College of the Ozarks in Missouri is a Christian school that for decades has been committed to providing educational opportunities for young people who wouldn’t otherwise have them. No one pays tuition at College of the Ozarks. Instead, students work on campus to help pay for their education. For many students, this is their only chance to go to college.
Because HUD announced that it would enforce its order through the Fair Housing Act, College of the Ozarks and other colleges across the country—regardless of their beliefs—will be required to house male students in female dorms and vice versa. Colleges will be required to allow students to choose which restrooms, dorms, showers, and locker rooms they want to use—or be shut down.
For College of the Ozarks, that is not an option. Providing safe, comfortable housing for all students is a part of the college’s commitment to its community. That means that no female student should be forced to share private spaces with a male student, and vice versa. But if College of the Ozarks shuts down, countless young people will lose their only chance at higher education. So the college took a stand, and is continuing to fight in court for its right to offer safe, affordable education to its students.
That was the environment when Grant Park Christian Academy found itself caught up in the chaos. Grant Park receives funding from the National School Lunch Program, administered by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, to pay for school lunches. That program, offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, requires participating schools to promise not to discriminate on the basis of sex (per Title IX). Grant Park, of course, agreed. But then the Biden administration mandated that “sex” now includes gender identity and sexual orientation—meaning that schools would have to defer to “gender identity” in enforcing rules around restrooms, locker rooms, showers, dress codes, hiring, and pronoun usage.
Grant Park is a Christian school. This mandate from the Biden administration went against its core beliefs about human nature. So the school requested a religious exemption (something offered through Title IX) and asked for assurances from Commissioner Fried that students would continue to receive lunches. The commissioner’s office ignored the request for an exemption and told the school that it is “not required to participate in the National School Lunch Program.” The USDA also ignored Grant Park’s request for an exemption.
To summarize: In its quest to force a radical gender ideology upon all Americans, this administration is willing to take away low-income students’ access to food at school.
Fortunately for Grant Park, Alliance Defending Freedom got involved. Just days after ADF filed a lawsuit on Grant Park’s behalf, the USDA issued an exemption and Commissioner Fried approved the school’s request for funding for lunches. The USDA also agreed to automatically respect Title IX exemptions for all religious schools.
So for students at Grant Park Christian Academy, lunch is back on the menu—for now. But if the Biden administration succeeds in changing the definition of sex in Title IX, this extreme gender ideology will be set in stone for all public schools, charter schools, and private secular schools. Schools and colleges that try to stand up for their right to operate according to their deeply held beliefs will be at a disadvantage, and it’s only a matter of time before this crazy reality gets even more bizarre.