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USDA Announces Religious Schools Would Be Exempt from Title IX Expansion

The department asks schools that accept federal funding to expand their sex-based discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity

The United States Department of Agriculture will still provide federal funding to religious schools even if they do not comply with its expanded discrimination policies.

In May, the federal department announced it would interpret the sex-based discrimination prohibited under Title IX to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Schools that received funding from the USDA, including for the National School Lunch Program, were required to alter their nondiscrimination policies to align with the change.

The USDA subsequently released a document clarifying that “the law includes some exceptions, including one permitting an institution to be exempt on religious grounds if there is a conflict between Title IX and a school’s governing religious tenets.”

Religious educational institutions are not required to “submit a written request for a Title IX exemption in order to claim that exemption,” the USDA noted.

“If, however, a religious educational institution wishes to seek USDA recognition of their religious exemption, it may do so through a written request under USDA regulations,” the department added. “Those that have neither sought nor received prior written assurance from USDA may still invoke their exemption after USDA receives a Title IX discrimination complaint or initiates Title IX compliance efforts.”

Critics of the program have said the policy links a $10 billion program that provides more than 22 million children meals each day with ideological debates regarding gender, including bathroom access and pronoun usage. 

In June, the attorney generals of Alaska, Georgia, Arizona, Kansas, Ohio and 20 other states co-signed a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to intervene and prevent the USDA from enforcing its memorandum expanding sex-based discrimination. 

The AGs described the policy as “unlawful” and argued the USDA “tried to circumvent” established regulatory practices by presenting the Title IX guidance as a “clarification” when it “is actually a re-write of the law.”

“We have long had a productive relationship with the federal government, managing various food and nutrition programs guided by the principles of cooperative federalism,” wrote Tennesee Attorney General Herbert Slatery. “But the Guidance flouts the rule of law, relies on patently incorrect legal analysis that is currently under scrutiny in the federal courts, and was issued without giving the States the requisite opportunity to be heard.”

“We all know the Biden administration is dead-set on imposing an extreme left-wing agenda on Americans nationwide,” Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said, per The Hill. “But they’ve reached a new level of shamelessness with this ploy of holding up food assistance for low-income kids unless schools do the Left’s bidding.”

Rokita and other AGs sued the USDA in July, arguing the department “issued directives and rules that misconstrue the law and impose unlawful requirements” to “inappropriately expand the law far beyond what statutory text, regulatory requirements, judicial precedent, and the U.S. Constitution permit.”

The USDA’s clarification regarding religious schools’ exemptions from the guidance came one week after Grant Park Christian Academy in Florida was granted an exemption by the Biden Administration. The school filed a lawsuit in July arguing the requirement would hurt its “educational mission, free speech and religious exercise.”

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