The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has dismissed a Title IX complaint against BYU that alleged discrimination related to students involved in same-sex romantic relationships. The complaint, which was recently reported in the media, was officially dismissed on February 8, 2022.
BYU had anticipated that OCR would dismiss the complaint because OCR has repeatedly recognized BYU’s religious exemption for Title IX requirements that are not consistent with the religious tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As President Kevin J Worthen wrote in a recent letter to OCR, BYU affirms “the freedom to operate a religious university without sacrificing distinctive religious beliefs,” and at the same time, BYU “will continue to support ongoing efforts to find common ground on these issues as we strive to follow Jesus Christ’s example of love and fairness for all of God’s children.”
The complaint was filed on March 9, 2020, but BYU was not aware of the complaint until October 21, 2021, when OCR gave notice to BYU that the case had been opened. In a response on November 19, 2021, BYU asserted its religious exemption and outlined relevant religious tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ. In closing the case, OCR recognized that BYU has a religious exemption that applies to this issue.
OCR opens hundreds of investigations each year, and there are currently more than 1,400 pending Title IX cases involving schools across the country. Title IX generally prohibits sex discrimination in the programs or activities of federally funded institutions of higher education. Title IX also states that it “shall not apply” to a religious institution to the extent that Title IX requirements are not consistent with the religious tenets of the institution’s controlling religious organization. BYU has long recognized that it is subject to Title IX, and over the years, OCR has recognized the university’s religious exemption on certain issues.
On January 3, 2022, OCR confirmed BYU’s exemption from various Title IX provisions to the extent that application of these provisions is not consistent with the religious tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ “that pertain to sexual orientation and gender identity.” In closing this case on February 8, 2022, OCR determined it did not have jurisdiction over the complaint because of BYU’s religious exemption, which OCR had recognized the month before.
President Worthen’s letter stated that “we simultaneously stand firm in our religious beliefs and reiterate our love and respect for each member of the campus community.”