Association for Biblical Higher Education’s Ralph E. Enlow on Fuller Theological Seminary’s Same-sex Marriage Lawsuit and Federal Student Aid

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of BCNN1.

(Editor’s Note: The author of this op-ed, Dr. Ralph E. Enlow, is the president of the post-secondary accreditation body the Association for Biblical Higher Education. Fuller Theological Seminary is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.)

In October 2018, Joanna Maxon filed suit against Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The lawsuit alleges that her dismissal as a student at the institution was unjust, in violation of her rights under the U.S. Education Act’s Title IX prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sex on the part of institutions participating in federal student financial aid programs.

The seminary’s ability to comment on the lawsuit is constrained by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). What appears clear based on Maxon’s own statements, however, is that she enrolled as a Fuller student knowing her same-sex intimacy and marriage contradicted the institution’s published community standards and, in the course of doing so, she made false representations and statements concerning herself and her conduct. This past week, Nathan Brittsan, a pastor and Fuller graduate student, joined Maxson’s lawsuit.

That begs the question: Who is the victim here? Have Maxon and Brittsan been denied the ability to access Title IX federal student aid funding in support of their ministerial ambitions? Or has Fuller Seminary been subjected to a calculated assault on its constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion by disingenuous means?

In my respectful opinion, Maxon and Brittsan are not suing Fuller because they are being denied anything but because they and their ideological allies cannot abide any institution that dares to uphold long-standing community standards that deviate from their views. Which pattern better fits the definition of tyranny and injustice?

Consider a second question: What “sex discrimination” does Title IX explicitly protect? The Higher Education Act was enacted by Congress in 1972, long before same-sex marriage was legalized. Any attempt to construe it as applicable to sexual orientation and same-sex marriage protections is debatable, to say the least. Congress could speak to the issue, but it has not. Presidential administrations (Obama, Trump) have issued opposite, as-yet judicially untested, staff and institutional guidance. In any case, both the guidelines and its accompanying federal regulations anticipate possible religious objections to some of its provisions and offer the opportunity for exemptions.

Perhaps more importantly, I suggest we consider a third question: Are there social dividends associated with protecting the right of religious colleges to establish and uphold community standards consistent with their documented and sincerely held religious beliefs? To that question, I urge that we offer a resounding YES.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Ralph E. Enlow