Religious schools exempt from USDA Title IX rules may retain federal funding for meals

Religious schools are not required to follow new Title IX rules on sexual orientation and gender identity in order to receive federal funding for meals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday.

The big picture: The USDA announced in May that it would interpret Title IX — which prevents sex discrimination in educational institutions — to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • Under the new rules, schools would have to update their discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity in order to remain eligible for federal meal funding.
  • It sparked a backlash from religious institutions, who said the new rules infringed on their freedoms of speech and religion, according to The Hill.

Driving the news: The USDA clarified its position on Friday, noting that educational institutions can obtain an exemption if there is “a conflict between Title IX and the religious principles governing a school.”

  • Religious schools do not have to submit a written request to request an exemption, the USDA noted.
  • The decision comes just a week after the Biden administration granted an exemption to a religious school in Florida. The Grant Park Christian Academy had filed a lawsuit in late July, claiming compliance with the new rules would harm its “educational mission, freedom of expression and religious practice”.

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