Bishops and Educators ask Department of Ed to Protect Female Athletics
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Catholic bishops and educators are urging the Department of Education to reject a proposed rule change that would compel Kâ€"12 schools and higher education institutions, receiving federal funding, to allow biologically male students to participate in female athletics under certain circumstances.
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Rule would compel schools to allow biologically male students to compete against females.
The proposed rule aims to amend the existing Title IX regulations concerning transgender issues in athletics, requiring schools to permit some students to participate in sports programs according to their self-identified gender, even if it differs from their biological sex.
While the proposal would prevent blanket policies that restrict male sports to biological males and female sports to biological females, it would allow schools receiving federal funding to set limits on sports participation on a case-by-case basis. Institutions would need to demonstrate, in individual cases, that restricting participation to biological males or females is necessary to maintain competitiveness or safety.
On May 15, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Catholic Educational Association, and The Catholic University of America filed a public comment urging regulators to reject the proposal before the close of the public comment period.
The comment from the Catholic institutions stated, "The proposal imposes an inaccurate view of human nature and sexuality." It further criticized the proposal for being internally inconsistent, overly vague, and failing to consider the intersection of the rule's requirements with the Title IX religious exemption. The comment respectfully recommended that the Department abandon the rulemaking.
The coalition argued that the proposed rule is based on an inaccurate understanding of gender. They emphasized the intrinsic connection between human embodiment and sexual differentiation, asserting that human bodies, like those of other mammals, are inherently male or female. They contended that "being a man" or "being a woman" is a fundamental aspect of human existence, expressing a person's unity and procreative purpose.
Catholic schools receiving federal funding could potentially be affected by these restrictions. However, religious institutions have the option to request exemptions from policies that contradict their religious beliefs. It remains uncertain whether the Department of Education would grant Catholic schools exemptions to the rule, or how the rule would impact Catholic institutions even if exemptions were granted.
The comment from the USCCB, NCEA, and CUA stressed the need for clarification regarding the application of the proposed rule to religious schools with beliefs contrary to its requirements. They argued that religious schools should be free to adhere to their religious beliefs in managing their athletic programs, including internal policies on sports participation.
The groups also raised concerns about the potential impact of the rule on Catholic institutions competing against public and other private institutions in sports. They contended that the situation becomes more complex when a religious school with sex-segregated teams competes against a school without such segregation, particularly in the same athletic conference. In such cases, the comment suggested that the rule should not dictate an outcome or impose penalties on a religious school that refuses to play against a team including a student of the opposite biological sex. Instead, both schools should be allowed to decide whether to compete against each other and under what conditions.
The Department of Education received over 132,000 comments on the proposal before the public comment period closed. The rule has generated controversy from various perspectives, with some transgender activists arguing that it falls short of their expectations, while many Christian and conservative institutions claim it goes too far.
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