Students protest Christian university for upholding its religious values

Student recently protested Anderson University, a Baptist institution in South Carolina that is exempt from Title IX as a religious school.

Both Title IX and Supreme Court precedent permit religious schools to require that teachers behave in accordance with their religious mission.

Controversy erupted at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina, after the university decided not to renew the contract of a queer professor.

Miranda Barnett, adjunct professor of theatre at the private Baptist school, first announced that she had been let go via an Instagram video on June 22.

In the video, Barnett claims Anderson decided not to renew her contract “because I am queer.” 

Barnett went on to say that the university is “within their rights to do so because of religious exemption, I guess," and that her “little gay, non-binary life, has cracked wide open.”

Four days later, on June 26, students gathered outside Anderson University to protest the school’s decision.

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According to a Fox Carolina report on the event, protesters “claimed that the school used their Title IX religious exemption to justify the decision.”

Title IX is a federal statute that bars publicly-funded educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education website, however, “Title IX does not apply to an educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization to the extent that application of Title IX would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization.”

The Supreme Court also reaffirmed in the 2019 decision Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru that religious schools are exempt from certain kinds of anti-discrimination lawsuit.

This is due to the so-called 'ministerial exception,' which grants religious schools wide latitude in deciding whether the personal behavior or characteristics of employees are or are not consistent with their religious mission.

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The day of the protest, a letter was sent to Anderson University from protesters informing the school of their intentions, and asking the university to explain itself.

The letter also came with a series of demands, insisting that Anderson “commit to not firing or disciplining faculty, staff or students on the basis of sexuality and gender identity, hold a mandatory cultural competency training for all department heads, establish a LGBTQ+ employee resource group, and an immediate formation of an LGBTQ+ Anderson Alumni Council.”

The university responded to the letter by emphasizing its right, as a private religious institution, to uphold “the South Carolina Baptist traditional view of sexuality and marriage as set forth in Scripture.”

The statement went on to cite the Anderson University employee handbook, which specifies that teachers must be “mindful and respectful” of the school’s Baptist commitments, and that they cannot “undermine the University’s Statement of Faith.”

Campus Reform reached out to Anderson University and Miranda Barnett for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.