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Transgender rights advance in recent actions


WASHINGTON (BP) – Defenders of religious freedom and the biblical view of sexuality have objected to recent actions by the executive and judicial branches of the federal government that advance transgender rights for now.

In decisions announced April 6 or 7:

  • The Department of Education proposed a rule April 6 for kindergarten through college that would prohibit schools receiving federal funds from implementing wholesale bans on student participation on athletic teams aligned with their gender identity instead of their biological sex.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court issued an April 6 order that upheld a lower-court decision blocking enforcement for the time being of West Virginia’s ban on participation by biological males in girls’ or women’s sports.
  • The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled April 7 an Indiana school district did not violate a teacher’s religious liberty when it required him to use the preferred names and pronouns of students who identified as transgender.

The proposed Department of Education rule is another in a series of actions by the Biden administration in an effort to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) rights. According to the proposal, a “one-size-fits-all” ban on transgender participation would violate Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that accept federal money.

Hannah Daniel, policy manager of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the proposal “is an affront to millions of female athletes and perpetuates false notions surrounding gender and sexuality.”

“Title IX was created to protect and elevate women and girls, and this action undermines that original intent, making competition for young women less fair and safe,” she told Baptist Press in written comments.

“As Southern Baptists, we believe God created humans to be only male or female for our flourishing and any action that distorts that reality will lead our society down a harmful path. The ERLC will file public comments sharing these concerns with the department and urge them to change course in moving forward with this rule.”

While the proposed rule would bar across-the-board bans, it would allow restrictions on some older transgender student-athletes, particularly in high school and college. Elementary students would normally be able to take part on teams related to their gender identity, while limitations on transgender participation by older students may be permitted so schools can “achieve an important educational objective, such as fairness in competition,” according to the proposal.

The proposed rule, which permits a 30-day public comment period, is “a slap in the face to female athletes who deserve equal opportunity to compete in their sports,” said Christiana Kiefer, senor counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Twenty states have enacted laws that bar biological males from competing in girls’ or women’s sports, according to ADF.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which describes itself as the country’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, commended the proposal but said it should go further.

The rule makes it “abundantly clear” that discrimination “against transgender athletes is wrong and a violation of federal law,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said. “The new rule should be clarified to ensure that all transgender students should be presumed eligible to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity.”

The Supreme Court denied without explanation West Virginia’s request that it vacate an injunction by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., against the state’s ban on male participation on female teams. A federal court had ruled in favor of the state before a divided panel of the appeals court issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the law while the case is under consideration.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissent from the high court’s order. He would grant West Virginia’s request regarding an “important issue that this Court is likely to be required to address in the near future,” Alito wrote. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas joined in the dissent.

The case involves a 12-year-old biological male who identifies as female and competes on the girls’ track team.

The Supreme Court’s order “didn’t end this case,” Kiefer said. “[W]e remain committed to protecting female athletes by continuing to litigate this case” at the Fourth Circuit and through other lawsuits.

A divided panel of the Seventh Circuit Court ruled Brownsburg (Ind.) Community School Corp. was not guilty of religious discrimination in requiring John Kluge to use the preferred names and pronouns of transgender students. Kluge, a high school music teacher, sought an accommodation for his Christian beliefs about sexuality.

The school initially granted Kluge an accommodation but retracted it after student and faculty complaints.

In upholding a federal court ruling, the appeals court said federal law “does not require that employers accommodate religious practices that work an undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business; that sometimes means that a religious employee’s practice cannot be accommodated.”

Messengers to the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution regarding transgender identity that “affirm[ed] God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.” The resolution “regard[ed] our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn[ed] acts of abuse or bullying committed against them.” It also invited all transgender people to trust in Jesus.

A 2016 resolution on sexuality reaffirmed Southern Baptists’ love for those who identify as transgender.