Biden admin softens defense of law protecting religious exemption after liberals complain

President Biden’s administration appeared to soften the language it used to defend a religious exemption after intense backlash from progressives.

The issue revolves around a federal law – Title IX, a civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex by education programs receiving federal assistance. The statute exempts religious schools from those protections if it violates their deeply held beliefs. 

Title IX has traditionally been interpreted as protecting women in federally funded schools based on their biology. More recent interpretations – including in Bostock v. Clayton County, a case that reached the Supreme Court last term – have argued that it also protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and the gender with which someone identifies.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently defending Title IX’s religious exemption provision in a federal lawsuit in Oregon where dozens of former students sued religious colleges for alleged discrimination. 

On Tuesday, DOJ filed a motion to prevent religious liberty advocates from intervening in the Oregon case. In doing so, DOJ held that the outside firms were unnecessary given that it shared the conservative advocates’ ultimate objective. 

In its filing, the department also included a line saying it would “vigorously” defend religious liberty protections in court.

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