Carson-Newman University, a private Southern Baptist college in Tennessee, has been given the federal government's permission to discriminate against students who don't conform to "Christian values," according to Nashville TV station WVLT. The official waiver would allow the university to bar LGBT students, unwed mothers, students who have had an abortion, and pregnant women.
The school's reasons for seeking the Title IX exemption remain unclear, and the university president, while claiming the college will not discriminate against students, has also admitted he was unclear why the school sought the waiver. Title IX is the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, and the Department of Education has held it applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The law allows any school "controlled by a religious organization” to seek an exemption if complying “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.” Waivers have rarely been sought until recently when the expansion of LGBT civil rights have caused a spike in schools seeking the exemption. Over the past 18 months, 30 colleges and universities have won waivers to the civil rights law — most of them in the South and West.
"This is who we are our religious principles and in a changing world we want to reaffirm who we are and intend to be," Dr. Randall O'Brien, the school's president, told WVLT.
O'Brien seemed unsure why the university sought the exemption, saying the school had no intention of discriminating.
"You're the president, you're not going to file anything unless you understand it," the TV reporter pressed O'Brien on-air.
"Yeah, I understood our legal counsel said it would further make us a Christian school," O'Brien replied. "I don't know how it would be. Why file the waiver, that's a good question.
"I believe he felt it would strengthen our First Amendment rights. I don't know why something would be necessary, but since he's counsel, I felt we'd follow the template."
The university's attorney has also filed applications for almost a dozen other Christian schools around the nation seeking religious exemptions to the civil rights law.
Watch the report by WVLT below.