Aug 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Religious schools exempt from USDA's Title IX rules, can keep meal funding

A cafeteria worker prepares lunch for students at Freedom Preparatory Academy in Provo, Utah, in 2020. Photo: George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

Religious schools are not required to follow new Title IX rules on sexual orientation and gender identity in order to receive federal meal funding, the United States Department of Agriculture announced on Friday.

The big picture: The USDA announced in May that it would interpret Title IX — which prevents discrimination based on sex at educational institutions — to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • Under the new rules, schools would need to update their policies on discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity in order to remain eligible for federal meal funding.
  • This triggered a backlash from religious institutions, which said the new rules infringed on their freedoms of speech and religion, according to The Hill.

Driving the news: The USDA clarified its position on Friday, noting that educational institutions can obtain an exemption if there is "a conflict between Title IX and a school’s governing religious tenets."

  • Religious schools do not have to submit a written request to claim an exemption, the USDA noted.
  • The decision comes just a week after the Biden administration granted an exemption to a religious school in Florida. Grant Park Christian Academy had filed a lawsuit in late July, claiming that complying with the new rules would harm its "educational mission, free speech and religious exercise."
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