By Charles Diringer Dunst
Carson-Newman University is a four year, liberal arts Southern Baptist college in Jefferson City, Tennessee.
It is now also a college that has legally won the right to discriminate, based on sexual orientation and unfair, old-fashioned gendered expectations of women.
The university, at the behest of their attorney, applied for and received a Title IX exemption waiver, allowing them to bypass federal non-discrimination laws.
Title IX is a federal law which directly prohibits discrimination based on sex in higher education.
The law allows for any school “controlled by a religious organization” to seek an exemption if complying “would not be consistent with the religious tenants of such organization.”
Carson-Newman’s exemption allows the college to reject those who live in conflict with its interpretation of Christianity. This includes LGBT peoples, unwed mothers, women who have had abortions, and non-married women who may be pregnant.
The college has clarified that their usage of the waiver is not discriminatory, as it intends to “further establish our identity as a religious school.”
University president Dr. Randall O’Brien requested the exemption in a letter addressed to the federal government in May 2015.
“This is who we are as a Christian university,” he told CBS affiliate WVLT on Monday. “These are our religious principles, and in a changing world, we would like to reaffirm that this is who we are and who we intend to be.”
The university has stated that their reception of the waiver will not affect its admissions policies, at least not in the upcoming year.
When pressed by a local news tv station, President O’Brien paradoxically stated that the exemption would not lead the university to “discriminate against or students or any student applying to Carson-Newman.”
WATCH: Local TV story about Carson-Newman University Title IX waiver
The college has so far been unable to clarify exactly how they intend to utilize the waiver. It is not even clear why the university wanted to waiver in the first place, unless they intended to use it.
“You’re the president,” WVLT’s Lauren Davis noted. “You’re not going to file something unless you understand it.”
President O’Brien said in response to Davis’ assertion that the exemption would allow the school to “strengthen our position in relation to First Amendment rights. I don’t really know why something would be necessary beyond that.”
Despite their reception of the waiver, its usage is something which the university has clearly defined.
Jared Champion, Carson-Newman Class of 2003, told The Knoxville News-Sentinel that he was “absolutely humiliated by the news.”
Champion said that he believes that the exemption will impact the value of his degree as he continues his career as a college professor.
“As I move forward and put in job applications, and the like, I’m going to have to put in an addendum . . . to let them know that the values that Carson-Newman now represents are not mine,” Champion said.
The university’s attorney, Jim Guenther, has recommended the same exemption as a prudent course of action for several other Christian colleges.
Cover Photo Credit: Carson-Newman University/ Facebook