Students and protesters challenge pending Title IX exemption

Biolans’ Equal Ground and Soulforce come together to raise concerns regarding students’ LGBTQ rights.

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Melissa Hedrick, Writer

Updated: 9:30 P.M.

Biolans’ Equal Ground and Soulforce, a national Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender activism group, brought together around 40 combined members at approximately 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 9. to lead a walking protest expressing their disagreement with Biola’s application for a partial Title IX exemption.

What led to the Demonstration

“[We are] asking Christian schools with Title IX exemptions, or currently in the process of applying for Title IX exemptions, to give their exemptions back or at least hear the queer and transgender students out on their campuses,” said Jordyn Sun, national campus organizer for Soulforce.

The group gathered on various spots on campus including Flour Fountain, the Biola Bells and Metzger Lawn. During their march, protesters carried signs that read, “I #havethecourage to stand up for LGBT students and staff” with the hashtag #BiolaGiveBackIX. In addition, they handed out flyers created by Soulforce describing what Title IX is, what led them to demonstrate and what supporters can do to further their cause.

Purpose for the Exemption

Biola applied for a partial Title IX exemption in 2014 as a response to the law created by the United States Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights regarding sex discrimination in the form of transgender and gender identity.

“In the context of Biola’s sincerely held religious beliefs regarding issues of gender identity and expression, there is the potential for a conflict between positions taken by the Department of Education in its interpretation of the requirements under Title IX and Biola’s religious position,” according to an emailed statement from the university regarding the protest. “Accordingly, the university felt it was prudent and appropriate to request an exemption on this basis. Biola wants the ability to make decisions based on Biola’s theological understanding of gender and on a case by case basis in regards to transgender students, rather than Title IX prescribing how the university should make decisions.”

Soulforce Involvement

At the protest, Soulforce aimed to promote safe learning environments for queer and trans students at Christian institutions across the nation. Biola’s Sexuality and Relationships policy states that students will not engage in same-sex behavior and Student Development will counsel students in a positive manner regarding their same-sex attraction or sexual orientation.

Soulforce is an organization that seeks to draw attention to schools that have applied for or received Title IX exemptions after the Department of Education extended Title IX  to include discrimination of students based on their gender identity in April 2015. Since 1998, Soulforce has created workshops to nonviolently contest the political and religious discrimination against the LGBT community, as well as race and gender.

This was the first large event run by Biolans’ Equal Ground of the spring semester. The club changed their name from Biola Underground in spring 2015 and underwent a leadership change last fall.

Hosting a Peaceful Demonstration

Though claims were made saying students were kicked off of campus, the group did not file paperwork to receive approval to protest on campus according to the Public Expression, Assembly, and Forum Policy listed in the Student Handbook and the group peacefully disbanded. Administration encouraged Biolans’ Equal Ground and Soulforce to file through the approval process if they wished to host a peaceful demonstration in the future.

“Biola is a Christ-centered institution founded on truth, love and grace. This is an important aspect of Biola’s mission and purpose and all members of the Biola community contribute to accomplishing this mission. The exemption allows the university to remain a community of believers who abide by community standards and Biola’s doctrinal statement,” according to an emailed statement from the university.

Opposing Ideas

Senior communications major Adeline Saldana was a protestor at #BiolaGiveBackIX.

“As a Biola student I would love to see this campus as a safer place for, especially for this event, trans students,” Saldana said. “Biola says that they want to be a more inclusive and diverse campus yet they are asking for this waiver, which is doing the exact opposite.”

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