Published October 3, 2023
Can a religious school act like a religious school? That question ought to be as rhetorical as the old refrain, “Is the Pope Catholic?” Yet in some instances, schools have actually had to take legal action to get to yes on the question of their freedom to operate consistent with their religious beliefs. On Sept. 20, for example, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic High School because the school requires teachers to uphold Roman Catholic teaching with respect to marriage.
Religious freedom protects faith-based schools’ exercise of their beliefs in their community practices. Some policy changes are presenting new challenges to that freedom, however. That has potential implications for Christian educational institutions at all levels—including K-12 schools, colleges, and graduate programs. An issue of particular concern is the expanded interpretation of long-standing federal non-discrimination policy to include gender identity.
Immediately after President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, the administration announced that it would interpret federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination to also cover sexual orientation and gender identity. That included Title IX, a provision in federal statute that bans sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs. Over the last 50 years, Title IX had became known for opening the door to women’s sports, especially at the college level. Now the Biden policy has instead made way for biological males to compete against women in those same programs, defeating the original purpose.
Jennifer Patterson is director of the Institute of Theology and Public Life at Reformed Theological Seminary (Washington, D.C.) and a senior fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Jennifer Patterson is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her work focuses on projects related to religious freedom and overcoming poverty, drawing on her more than 25 years of experience in public policy.