CNA Staff, Dec 15, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- A leading LGBT activist group is calling for the Biden administration to tighten accreditation regulations of religious schools to enforce acceptance of so-called transgender rights.
The pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued its list of policy priorities for the incoming Biden administration, The Daily Signal reported on Monday
Among its priorities, the group’s Blueprint for Positive Change 2020 calls for the Education Department to update its regulations on school accreditation— including requiring religious schools to accommodate students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Currently, HRC says, religious schools that “discriminate or that do not meet science based curricula standards” could be approved by accreditation agencies, which could simply be following their mandate to “respect the stated mission” of religious schools.
Instead, HRC wants a new regulation from the Education Department to change that.
New language could specify that agencies do not have to accredit schools “that do not meet neutral accreditation standards including nondiscrimination policies and scientific curriculum requirements,” the group’s blueprint says.
For years, legal experts have been discussing possible battles over access to federal benefits and accreditation of religious schools, based on their acceptance of ideas such as same-sex marriage and accommodation of persons identifying as LGBT.
During 2015 oral arguments in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell case, the landmark ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, the Obama administration’s solicitor general suggested that religious schools opposed to the redefinition of marriage could lose their tax-exempt status if the Court defined same-sex marriage as a right.
In October, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito wrote that the Obergefell ruling is already prompting conflicts to emerge, threatening the religious freedom of persons and groups who oppose the redefinition of marriage.
In its policy blueprint, HRC also called for a slew of other legal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity throughout federal agencies.
The group called on the Education Department to once again require public schools to accommodate students identifying as transgender—allowing them access to single-sex locker rooms and bathrooms based on their gender identity and not biological sex.
HRC also called for inclusion in the military for persons identifying as transgender, an interagency working group to promote the LGBTQ agenda around the world, and changes to rules for religious contractors with the government.
The Trump administration has allowed faith-based groups to retain their hiring practices while contracting with the government, essentially allowing them to hire only people of a certain faith or only those who abide by a workplace code of conduct without having to worry about federal nondiscrimination laws. HRC is pushing for a change in regulations here, to require all contractors to abide by federal nondiscrimination laws.
HRC is also pushing for a change in the interpretation of a statute that is at the heart of social and cultural conflicts in health care, Sec. 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.
While the statute forbids discrimination in health care, the Obama administration interpreted that to require doctors to provide gender-transition surgeries upon the referral of a mental health professional—whether they agreed with morality of the procedure or not.
The Trump administration reversed this “transgender mandate,” but HRC is pushing for the Biden administration to reinterpret the statute—and possibly reinstate the mandate.
HRC also wants “uniform, government-wide implementation” of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County from this past June.
That ruling, which extended prohibitions of sex discrimination to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, was criticized by religious freedom advocates. Advocates warned that, by enshrining sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in law, the court was putting religious charities and business owners on the defensive against a slew of new discrimination lawsuits.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the Court’s majority, acknowledged that the decision would bring up future religious freedom cases. He maintained that individuals and groups have recourse to religious freedom protections under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
In its other blueprint recommendations, HRC also wants the Biden administration to appoint “qualified LGBTQ judges, executive officials, and ambassadors abroad.”
The group is also pushing for an end to the Mexico City Policy, which bars funding of foreign NGOs that promote or provide abortions. It also called for the Biden administration to reinstate nondiscrimination requirements for charities that partner with the government—possibly requiring religious adoption agencies, homeless shelters, and health care facilities to abide by LGBT mandates they deem problematic.
Catholic bishops, for instance, opposed a 2016 Obama administration rule that homeless shelters allow clients access to facilities based on their gender identity and not biological sex.
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