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The president of an evangelical Christian university in Oklahoma is “proud” to have asked for a religious exemption from Title IX that would allow his university to discriminate against transgender students.
Last month, HRC issued a letter to the U.S. Department of Education calling for “greater transparency” by publicly documenting which colleges have asked the Department of Education for exemptions and the extent of those exemptions. The organization also asked that Congress provide a yearly updated report of the number that have been requested, granted and denied. Under Title IX, which deals with sex discrimination, those colleges are able to avoid complying fully if they claim that the law conflicts with the tenets of their religion.
In response, Dr. Everett Piper, the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, wrote a column for the conservative Oklahoman website Forty Six News saying he objected to new guidelines from 2014 that require accommodations to be made for transgender students under Title IX’s prohibitions on sex discrimination. Piper explained his reasoning for opposing transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination protections and said he was “proud” of asking for a religious exemption.
“Yes, Oklahoma Wesleyan University requested an exemption,” wrote Piper. “We refuse to comply with the misogyny endemic to the transgender agenda. We recognize the ontological and biological dignity of the female. We believe in science and we believe in facts and there is little more empirically obvious than one’s sex. Being a female is an objective reality and we refuse to insult women by ignoring such self-evident truth.”
“Yes, Oklahoma Wesleyan believes women should be granted the dignity of having equal access to athletics, and other programs, as well as their own facilities. Women attending this university will not only have their own basketball and soccer teams, but they, likewise, will have their own restrooms, showers and dorms.
Yes, Oklahoma Wesleyan reserves the right to discriminate between those who are male and those who are female. To do otherwise would seem to contradict the very premise of Title IX which calls upon us to differentiate female students from male students and to thereby give women the same access to programs as men. If we didn’t ‘discriminate’ in such a way, how in the world would it be possible to comply with Title IX?
So there’s your report. How much more transparent would you like me to be? At Oklahoma Wesleyan University, we believe that sexual identity is a scientific fact, not a human fabrication and we refuse to degrade men and women by suggesting otherwise. Yes, we were granted an exemption and we are proud of it.”
Piper, who has challenged the employer mandate requiring nonprofits provide insurance for contraception in the Affordable Care Act and wrote an essay criticizing today’s generation of students for being narcissistic and a having a sense of victimization, has become a mini-celebrity among conservative circles for his opposition to liberal causes, including LGBT rights. As a result, he will attend President Obama’s State of the Union address in Washington on Jan. 12 at the invitation of U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who has praised Piper’s “stand for religious freedom.”
In response to Piper’s defiant op-ed, Chad Griffin, the president of HRC, blasted the university president’s unfounded and offensive assertions about transgender people.
“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,” Griffin said in a statement. “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.”
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