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The AACS Legislative Office monitors issues that affect the educational freedom and religious liberty of Christian schools.
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The Washington Flyer
March 25, 2016
 
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
John 11:25–26
 
Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments for Religious Liberty Case
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Zubic v. Burwell, the case in which the Court will decide whether the contraception mandate in Obamacare
violates the religious liberty of religious organizations. At the heart of the case is the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns now facing fines of over $70 million a year if they do not comply with the regulations which require them to provide contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans. Other institutions involved in the case include several Christian colleges that also face the choice of facing steep fines or violating their religious beliefs. The Administration claims that concerns of the organizations have been addressed through an “accommodation” which was created after initial public outcry when the regulation was first announced. However, religious groups find the accommodation to be unacceptable as it only provides a different enforcement mechanism without addressing the fact that the requiring the inclusion of the “preventive services” in health care plans violates the tenets of their faith. The AACS joined the Christian Legal Society along with the Association of Christian Schools International in submitting an amicus brief which points out that not only does the U.S. Constitution provide for religious liberty but also the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) provides protection for religious organizations against an overreaching government. In addition, over 200 Members of Congress signed an amicus brief pointing out the importance of protecting the First Amendment right of the free exercise of religion. Earlier this week, Rep. Chris Smith, the Co-Chair of the Bi-partisan Pro-life Caucus, made the following statement: “The question before the Court is really quite simple: Can the government coerce the Little Sisters of the Poor and other people of faith to violate their conscience? The Obama administration is telling these religious sisters, women who have given their life in service to God by taking care of the elderly poor, that their conscience is irrelevant and that they must follow the Federal Government’s conscience rather than their own.” With the absence of Justice Scalia, the justices appeared to be split in their responses during oral arguments. Should there be a 4-4 tie in their final decision, the ruling from the lower courts will stand unless the justices decide to rehear the case after a new justice has been appointed to fill Justice Scalia’s chair. A decision from the Supreme Court is expected in June.
 

Religious Liberty 

Gay Activists Seek to Shame Christian Colleges During March Madness
With the March Madness games in full swing, gay activist organizations Campus Pride and Soulforce are using the competition as an opportunity to
harass religious colleges that have applied for a religious exemption from Title IX, the law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in areas such as housing, admissions, and athletic opportunities. Colleges began applying for the religious exemption in 2014 when the DOE expanded its interpretation of the word sex to include gender identity, creating a host of problems and potential violations of the religious beliefs of various universities. For example, under this interpretation, a transgender male student could file a complaint against a university if he was denied access to the women’s showers, locker rooms, or housing. In a recent letter to the NCAA leadership, Campus Pride and other gay activist groups asked the organization to “divest from all religious based campuses who have requested discriminatory Title IX waivers toward LGBTQ youth.” However, the NCAA replied with a letter stating, “The Association values diversity and inclusion and its importance in higher education through sports. Our diverse membership comprising over 1,100 schools all serve to educate students while also preserving individual institutional values. In doing so, the landscape of higher education offers students the opportunity to select from schools that value various attributes.” Earlier this year, the Department of Education succumbed to similar pressure from some Senate Democrats and agreed to publish the list of schools that have been granted Title IX waivers, creating what some are calling a shame-list of colleges that are seeking religious liberty protection.


 

Education

Michigan Schools to Let Students Choose Gender
The Michigan State Board of Education recently drafted a
new guidance intended to drive the state’s public schools to change their policies to allow all students to choose their gender, name, pronouns, locker rooms, and restrooms, without guidance or council from parents or doctors. The guidance specifically states that “the responsibility for determining a student’s gender identity rests with the student. Outside confirmation from medical or mental health professionals, or documentation of legal changes, is not needed.” The guidance further instructs school personnel to address and refer to students by their chosen name and gender. In fact, the state board made it clear that students had the right to keep the knowledge of their lifestyle choices within the walls of the school, without ever informing their parents, by further stating, “Transgender and GNC [gender nonconforming] students have the right to decide when, with whom, and to what extent to share private information. When contacting the parent/guardian of a transgender or GNC student, school staff should use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s assigned sex at birth, unless the student or parent/guardian has specified otherwise.” Furthermore, the guidance informs schools that “students should be allowed to use the restroom in accordance with their gender identity,” and that any student who did not feel comfortable sharing a restroom with a student of the opposite biological sex could request a schedule change or use of a single private restroom. The guidance was issued without a press release on February 23, with a public comment period open until April 11. Final guidance will be issued May 10.







 

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American Association of Christian Schools
Jamison Coppola: Legislative Director
Maureen Van Den Berg: Policy Analyst

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