Faithful Catholic Educators Helped Defeat ‘Transgender Bathroom’ Mandate, ‘Huge Victory’ for Catholic Education

The Cardinal Newman Society today credited faithful Catholic colleges and schools for standing at the forefront of the opposition that prompted yesterday’s withdrawal of the U.S. Education Department’s “transgender bathroom” mandate.

“Several Catholic colleges and schools—steadfast in their faith and therefore most threatened by attacks on religious freedom—stood strong against this mandate and insisted on the safety and health of students,” said Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. “For helping preserve truth in education, they deserve Americans’ gratitude and support.”

Yesterday Secretary of Education Betsy Devos withdrew the “guidance” imposed by the Obama administration under the federal Title IX education law. The mandate prevented schools and colleges that receive federal money from enforcing sex-segregation in facilities like bathrooms, locker rooms and bedrooms when students claim a “gender” opposite from their natural sex. The policy threatened the safety and purity of students while denying basic Catholic teaching about human nature.

“Rescinding the guidance [on Title IX implementation] affirms the position that ‘sex’ in Title IX means male or female as rooted in human reproductive nature, and not a confusion of self-perceived ‘genders’ as argued by gender identity advocates,” said Gary McCaleb, senior counsel and vice president of advocacy research and innovation for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), to the Cardinal Newman Society.

ADF has been instrumental in helping the Newman Society oppose the mandate and urge Catholic institutions to assert religious exemption from the policy. Although Title IX exempts all religious institutions from its requirements if they conflict with religious beliefs, ADF and the Newman Society have encouraged colleges to obtain advance exemption letters from the Education Department to ensure protection before legal disputes arise.

Four faithful Catholic colleges— Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, Calif., and St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Okla.—applied for and received advance exemption letters.  In addition, the University of Dallas in Irving, Tex., was in the process of seeking an exemption letter from the Education Department. All of these institutions are recommended in The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College for their strong Catholic identity.

Despite the religious exemption, activists and the Obama administration collaborated in recent years to publicly shame colleges that claim it. The Education Department published an online list of such colleges, encouraging persecution like the attempt in California last year to withhold student aid from exempted institutions.

John Paul the Great and Thomas Aquinas College of Santa Paula, Calif., were two of the colleges that could have been severely harmed by the failed California bill. They were the only Catholic colleges in the state to vigorously oppose the measure, together with a coalition of other Christian colleges.

John Paul the Great President Derry Connolly told The Cardinal Newman Society last June, “[T]he argument of discrimination against ‘transgender’ citizens by faith-based colleges and universities is greatly exaggerated and false. The allegation of discrimination is the cover for what is truly an attack on religious freedom.”

Faithful Catholic educators also have been at the forefront of efforts to get a Supreme Court ruling against the “transgender bathroom” mandate. In September 2016, The Cardinal Newman Society filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, urging it to take up the case Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. concerning a public school district’s opposition to the mandate.

The brief was authored by the First Liberty Institute and was joined by several faithful Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide, including John Paul the Great, Thomas Aquinas College, The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, N.H., Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyo., and the Ignatius Angelicum Liberal Studies Program. The National Catholic Bioethics Center and Dr. Byron Johnson, Baylor University’s Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences and founding director of the Institute for Studies of Religion, also joined the brief.

Then last month, after the Court agreed to take up the case, The Cardinal Newman Society joined another amicus curiae brief—again authored by the First liberty Institute—arguing against the mandate.

Other signers included several faithful Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide: Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn., Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., John Paul the Great, Thomas More, Thomas Aquinas, Wyoming Catholic, and Ignatius Angelicum.

Eight faithful Catholic schools recognized by the Newman Society’s Catholic Education Honor Roll also joined the brief: Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha, Wis.; Holy Rosary Academy in Anchorage, Alaska; Notre Dame Academy in Toledo, Ohio; Notre Dame Regional High School in Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Pius X Catholic High School in Lincoln, Neb.; St. Joseph Academy in San Marcos, Calif.; St. Theodore Guerin High School in Noblesville, Ind.; and Seton School in Manassas, Va.

The Association of Christian Schools International and several educators were also among the signers.

It’s not yet clear how the Trump administration’s change of policy will affect the Supreme Court case, which is scheduled for oral arguments on March 28, but ADF’s McCaleb said that the Gloucester County school district’s counsel will be communicating with the Court soon to discuss a way forward.

“This is a huge victory for Catholic education, thanks in part to the witness of faithful Catholic educators,” Reilly said. “It demonstrates the great value of even the smallest Catholic institutions that have a large impact by their steadfast fidelity to Christ and their fortitude in the face of the Goliath that the Obama administration set before them. For educators who simply will not be coerced to violate their Catholic faith, the ‘transgender bathroom’ mandate was a grave threat to their ability to continue providing Catholic education.”

Read more about Belmont Abbey College Franciscan University of Steubenville John Paul the Great Catholic University St. Gregory’s University University of Dallas Thomas Aquinas College The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts Wyoming Catholic College Aquinas College Benedictine College Ignatius Angelicum Liberal Studies Program

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