Following the publication this week of a commentary by Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, in which he boasts of being “proud” to lead an institution that sought a waiver from the government so that it could discriminate against transgender people, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, released the following statement:
“Mr. Piper’s assertions are despicable, but, sadly, not surprising, given his track record of working with anti-LGBT organizations like the World Congress of Families. Piper should be ashamed. Imagine what it feels like to be a young LGBT student at Oklahoma Wesleyan University and hearing the president of your school publicly disparage you in this way. His astonishingly callous response to revelations that he sought the right to discriminate against his own students is not only stomach-turning, but anathema to the role of an educational leader.”
In his piece defending the university’s decision to request an exemption to existing civil rights law in order to discriminate against LGBT students on religious grounds, Piper used the same bigoted and hateful language that is his stock-in-trade: referring to transgender people as a “human fabrication,” and non-discrimination efforts as “misogyny.”
HRC recently called on the Department of Education to take action in light of a disturbing trend by religious colleges and universities, including Oklahoma Wesleyan University, to request Title IX religious exemptions allowing the institutions to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the report, Hidden Discrimination: Title IX Religious Exemptions Putting LGBT Students at Risk, HRC spotlights 56 colleges and universities based in 26 states across every region of the country that since 2013 have requested religious exemptions under Title IX. The report also found that the rate of schools receiving exemptions based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity continues to increase.
Title IX protects students from sex discrimination in areas including admissions, housing, recruitment, athletics, facilities, financial assistance, and counseling services. It also serves as a vital tool to combat the discrimination and harassment that LGBT students face.
HRC has asked the Department of Education to regularly report which educational institutions have been granted Title IX religious exemptions, the scope of those exemptions, and to ensure the information is provided on schools’ landing pages as part of College Navigator. Additionally, HRC has asked Congress to amend civil rights law to require an annual report on the number of Title IX exemptions requested, granted and denied.