Bethel College in Mishawaka is the latest to join a list of universities receiving a religious exemption from the U.S. Department of Education from certain Title IX requirements applying to LGBT students.
The college, which associates with the beliefs of the Missionary Church, holds its students and employees to standards that don’t tolerate homosexual acts or transgender people.
In his request for the exemption, Bethel College President Gregg Chenoweth explains the current policies at the school that would violate Title IX:
Among other things, students and employees are prohibited from drinking, smoking, using tobacco and illegal drugs, cohabitation, engaging in pre-marital or extra-marital sex, and homosexual activity. The Student Handbook, the Employee Handbook, and the Faculty Handbook contain provisions regarding expected Christian behavioral standards. The College may impose sanctions for behavior which is not in keeping with these standards, including dismissal from the College or termination of employment.
The exemption allows the school to punish students or faculty that engage in homosexual activities or relationships, or live as a transgender person, all things protected in Title IX.
The South Bend Tribune spoke with Chenoweth, who says the exemption didn’t create a huge change on campus since these principles are widely accepted by students and faculty:
The waiver doesn’t mean that individuals who are attracted to the same sex are prohibited from attending or graduating from Bethel, but rather that they must be celibate, just as Bethel’s unmarried heterosexual students are expected to be, Bethel President Gregg Chenoweth said Wednesday in a telephone interview. The same standard applies to employees, he said.
“When we admit a student, we do not require a profession of faith or a declaration of sexual identity. We have students who are atheists and we have students who are gay,” he said.
The exemption hasn’t made any practical difference in Bethel’s operations, the president said. “Our sense is this hasn’t really caused much of a ripple on campus,” he said.
More than two dozen religious institutions have applied for and received an exemption to Title IX requirements after President Obama’s executive order last year that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the law.