Mahoney Logo
Close this search box.

Title IX Religious Exemptions

Title IX protects against discrimination in all federally-funded schools. However, the Title IX religious exemption notes that colleges, universities, and private schools receiving federal funding can apply for Title IX religious exemptions if following the rules would conflict with the organization’s religious beliefs. At the Mahoney Law Firm, our lawyers help people in Illinois or Missouri who have faced discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation pursue justice.

On this page
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, popularly referred to as Title IX, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or other activity that receives financial support from the federal government. It ensures equal academic and athletic opportunities for individuals and protects students and others from sexual harassment and sexual assault.

    The law covers the following:

    However, Title IX provides exemptions on religious grounds for schools that receive federal funding, including private schools controlled by religious organizations with belief systems that conflict with the statute’s requirements. The law applies to both K-12 schools and colleges.

    At Mahoney Law Firm, our lawyers strive to help individuals and institutions in Illinois and Missouri understand Title IX religious exemption, how it applies to them, and how it may affect their discrimination claims.

    Examples of Religious Institutions Requesting Title IX Exemptions

    Many religious institutions have requested Title IX exemptions. Sometimes, courts have upheld religious exemptions. Other times, however, courts have rejected them. Landmark cases include the following:

    The Department of Education maintains a full list of all schools that have chosen to forgo all or part of Title IX.

    Arguments for and Against Title IX Exemption

    Title IX religious exemptions are a hotly debated topic in many circles, with people coming down strongly on both sides.

    Arguments in Favor of Religious Exemptions

    Some argue that granting religious exemptions to Title IX protects religious freedom and allows institutions to uphold their religious values and beliefs. Upholding religious exemptions for Title IX also allows freedom for individuals to choose institutions and organizations that reflect their values, they claim.

    Arguments Against Religious Exemption

    Others argue that religious exemptions increase the risk of discrimination against many groups, including women and LGBTQ+ individuals. They contend that religious exemptions also conflict with the goal of Title IX, which is to ensure equal access for everyone.

    The Implications of Title IX Religious Exemptions

    Title IX religious exemptions can have significant implications for students, staff members, and faculty at those institutions.

    Legal and Policy Implications of the Exemption

    Legally, policy-makers at institutions with Title IX religious exemptions can choose to institute rules and guidelines that discriminate against otherwise protected groups, including women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. That can mean:

    Title IX exemption can also lead to higher levels of gender-based discrimination or discrimination against LGBTQ+ students at social and classroom institutions. Religious institutions may even refuse admission to LGBTQ+ students.

    Impact on Gender Equality and LBGTQ+ Rights

    LGBTQ+ students continue to fight for their rights. The legal landscape is ever-changing for them as states amend their laws in this current politically polarized environment. LGBTQ+ individuals do not have some of the same rights and privileges that others take for granted, from the right to compete in sports to the right to receive quality health care and more.

    Title IX religious exemptions allow those institutions to lawfully discriminate against individuals who are already fighting for their rights in many arenas.

    Effect on Sexual Violence and Harassment Complaints

    Title IX exemptions may also serve as a barometer for how institutions will handle sexual assault in schools or sexual assault in sports connected to the school. Recent changes to Title IX provide that assault and harassment count as unlawful sex discrimination and govern how institutions need to handle those complaints.

    Advocates argue religious exemptions allow sexual misconduct at those institutions to go unchecked, placing students and others at greater risk of harm from abuse and harassment.

    Recent Developments in Title IX Religious Exemptions

    Meanwhile, judges have continued to uphold Title IX exemptions for religious institutions. However, the courts have acknowledged the evolving definition of gender to conform to modern standards, including how schools complying with Title IX must adhere to those policies for transgender or nonbinary individuals. Recently, debates have increased over the standards for transgender and nonbinary athletes and whether they should compete in divisions according to biological sex or preferred gender.

    While the Biden administration does seek to increase Title IX protections, current plans do not seek to roll back religious exemptions. Over time, those religious exemptions could potentially polarize schools across the country. The future outlook for Title IX religious exemptions remains strong. However, Title IX protections also continue to grow.

    Balancing Religious Freedom and Equality

    Title IX religious exemptions help protect religious freedoms, particularly for students and faculty members who choose those schools because of their religious beliefs. Balancing religious freedoms and civil rights in education will continue to be a thorny issue. Whether you are a student, a parent, an employee, or a faculty member of an educational institution, joining the conversation is very important.

    However, for those who have experienced discrimination or sexual abuse, religious exemptions may have a significant effect on their rights to seek justice. If such misconduct has harmed you, attorney Ryan Mahoney and the team at the Mahoney Law Firm can counsel you about your rights under Title IX.

    Schedule a free consultation to learn more.


    Does Title IX Apply to Religion?

    Religious institutions can apply for religious exemptions if they don’t forgo federal funding, including student grants and loans. That means they do not have to meet Title IX mandates for discrimination on the basis of sex or comply with recently imposed requirements governing sexual abuse complaints.

    Did the US Court Uphold Title IX Exemptions for Religious Schools?

    Yes. After a recent lawsuit by 40 LGBTQ+ students against the Department of Education, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken of the District of Oregon rejected the challenge to those exemptions, allowing religious colleges and universities to continue with their current protocols.

    What Is a Religious Exemption?

    A religious exemption notes that, based on religious beliefs, an individual or institution does not have to engage in specific practices or adhere to certain rules that other institutions must follow.

    To qualify for a religious exemption, the individual or institution must have a genuine belief that conflicts with the mandates. For example, a school that receives a Title IX religious exemption might need to show a direct religious belief conflicting with otherwise-required gender-based protections.

    What Is Not Protected by Title IX?

    Title IX protects against discrimination on the basis of sex in educational organizations that receive any type of federal funding. That includes discrimination against male, female, trans, or nonbinary individuals. However, it may not include protection for:

    What is Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and how does religion apply?

    Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects against gender-based discrimination. It provides equal opportunity for students in education and athletics at federally-funded institutions. However, Title IX has a religious exemption that allows schools controlled by religious organizations to seek an exemption to that ruling per specific religious beliefs.

    Let Mahoney Law Firm Help

    If you or someone you know has a Title IX claim or sexual misconduct case in Illinois, it is essential to seek legal representation from experienced professionals who can navigate the complexities of the due process requirements.

    The Mahoney Law Firm has extensive experience handling sexual assault and harassment cases, including cases within educational institutions. Mahoney Law Firm has a proven track record of success and can provide the guidance and support needed to achieve a fair and just outcome.

    Contact Mahoney Law Firm today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how they can help you.

    Image of a justice scale
    There for you when you need it most.