Gender Identity vs. Catholic Identity Face-Off After Title IX Expansions
The federal government’s reinterpretation of Title IX to include ‘gender identity’ is generating concern on Catholic campuses.
Some Marquette University professors say it is ‘very intimidating’ to speak about Catholic doctrine on sexuality in their classrooms
Cardinal Newman Society president Patrick Reilly: “Congress explicitly crafted exemptions for religious educational institutions to protect their religious identities. The big question is why some Catholic colleges [such as Georgetown, Fordham, Marquette, DePaul and St. Louis U.] are voluntarily declining to claim the exemption, when discrimination against our beliefs is a very serious prospect.”
[“He (Obama) who pays the piper (Title IX) calls the tune (inclusive gender identity)”]
by PETER JESSERER SMITH
WASHINGTON — The federal government’s broadening interpretations of Title IX, the 1972 anti-sexual-discrimination statute that applies to educational institutions, has raised concerns that the freedom of Catholic colleges and universities to teach and govern themselves according to the Church’s teachings on sexuality is at risk.
At least five Catholic educational institutions are among a wave of Christian colleges and universities that have applied for Title IX exemptions, in the wake of the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights’ expansion of Title IX’s interpretation to include “discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.” These Catholic colleges and universities have argued that the new rule interferes with their ability to govern themselves in full accord with Catholic teaching.
There are also academic freedom concerns related to Catholic identity: At Marquette University, professors have complained that the aggressive implementation of Title IX’s expansive interpretations, combined with vague definitions of what constitutes a “hostile environment,” are suppressing their academic freedom to teach Catholic theology in the classroom and promote Marquette’s Catholic identity on campus.
According to the meeting minutes of Concerned Catholics at Marquette University that were provided to the Register, a number of faculty expressed concern that the new Title IX mandates being implemented at the Catholic institution “necessarily restrict the free exchange of ideas, particularly in theology and philosophy — the very core of Catholic, Jesuit education.”
The concerns were not limited to professors alone. One professor said some students shared they did not feel comfortable sharing Church teaching in that environment.
“This is the opposite of university education,” one professor at Marquette University, who declined to be identified for this article, told the Register. The professor said the university’s Title IX compliance on issues of gender and sexuality is dampening classroom discussion of Church teaching in these areas and throwing another wrench in ongoing efforts to strengthen the university’s Catholic identity and mission.
A number of colleagues, the professor added, related that the recent Title IX training and campus environment made it “very intimidating” to speak about Catholic doctrine on sexuality in their classrooms, because that might be perceived by a student as a “hostile environment” and thus worthy of a Title IX complaint. At least one theology faculty member teaching about Genesis in his classroom received a complaint, after a student who had two fathers objected to the classroom presentation of the Church’s teaching of marriage.
“Don’t people come to universities so they can grow up? If they’re going into safe houses, how can they grow up if they can’t even deal with someone who disagrees?” the professor said.
The Register reached out to Marquette for an explanation of its Title IX policies and enforcement practices. A Marquette representative pointed to the university’s Title IX policies posted on its website, but declined to comment further.