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Congress Moves To Except Religious Schools From Gay Rights Laws


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Congress Moves To Except Religious Schools From Gay Rights Laws

by Paul Johnson, 365Gay.com Washington Bureau Chief

April 18, 2006 - 12:01 am ET

(Washington) Private Christian colleges would be excepted from local and state non-discrimination laws under a proposed amendment to the Higher Education Act - a move that would allow the schools to legally reject LGBT students.

The amendment, proposed by Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), would prevent accrediting boards from making adherence to non-discrimination laws a requirement.

The measure passed the House last week and is currently before the Senate

Brigham Young, University of Notre Dame, Baylor, Pepperdine and Samford universities have all been lobbying heavily for passage of the bill.

Although few boards specifically make adherence to non-discrimination laws a requirement for accreditation the schools say they want assurances they will not be targeted in the future.

"This is really a pre-emptive move on the part of these schools," BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins told the Deseret Morning News.

Pressure from the school has increased as a result of the Soulforce Equality Ride, a cross country protest of universities and colleges that do not permit gays to enroll.

Last week 30 riders were arrested over two days of demonstrations at BYU, which is affiliated with the Mormon Church. (story)

The Equality Ride began last month in Washington D.C.. Riders have been arrested at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma (story); Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia (story) which is affiliated with Christian Broadcaster Pat Robertson; and at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. (story)

On Friday another ten riders were arrested at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. (story)

Democrats in both houses of Congress oppose the amendment.

When the bill passed in a Senate committee Democrats wrote that "we believe that the amendment is not warranted in light of current practices by accrediting agencies and could have tremendous implications for the independence of accrediting agencies in determining appropriate standards for accreditation."

The committee also inserted language in the bill stating that it is not meant to allow an institution to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. The provision does not include sexuality.

©365Gay.com 2006


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