Lee University, Bryan College and Covenant College — all conservative Christian schools in the Chattanooga area — are among the "absolute worst, most unsafe campuses for LGBTQ youth" in the country, according to a list published Monday by a national LGBTQ advocacy group.
The roster, published by the nonprofit Campus Pride, lists schools across the country that have "chosen to openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth" or have sought exemptions from federal nondiscrimination laws "to perpetuate the harms of religion-based bigotry," according to the organization.
Covenant College declined a request for comment from the Times Free Press. Lee University and Bryan College did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.
The federal law known as Title IX bars discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity for education programs receiving federal funds.
Religious schools are exempt from the law if those protections interfere with the religious tenets of the organization, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Such organizations may apply to the federal government for formal recognition of their exemption, though they are otherwise exempt by nature of the organization.
All 180 schools on Campus Pride's list had some form of religious affiliation, including Brigham Young University, Liberty University and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They were not ranked.
Lee University, the Church of God-affiliated school in Cleveland, was included on Campus Pride's list for supporting a case before the Supreme Court that argued the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should not apply to gay and transgender individuals. The school also modified its anti-discrimination policy last summer to remove "gender identity" as a protected category.
Over the past year, a group of Lee alumni organized in support of LGBTQ students on campus. In March, the university's president, Mark Walker, faced backlash from some students and alumni after he publicly corrected a campus speaker who had discussed showing compassion and love to people experiencing gender dysphoria, the feeling of distress when a person's gender identity differs from their sex at birth.
In August, a transgender student in his senior year was suspended for violating the school's code of conduct around language, internet and inappropriate use of technological devices after posting videos to TikTok criticizing what he described as systemic homophobia on campus.
The university did not respond to specific questions from the Times Free Press at the time but said in a statement that the school is committed to "create a safe, welcoming environment for all students, and we strive to do so through the programs and services, academic and non-academic, our staff and faculty provide."
Bryan College, the conservative evangelical school in Dayton, is included on Campus Pride's list for its exemption to Title IX protections.
The college's student handbook bans "dishonesty, theft, vandalism, fornication, adultery, homosexual behavior, immodest dress, profanity, gossip and drunkenness," stating these acts are banned in the Bible.
Covenant College, the Presbyterian school in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, also makes the list for its Title IX exemption. The Presbyterian Church of America, which Covenant is affiliated with, believes homosexuality to be a "serious threat" to young people, and "practicing" members of the gay community cannot be ordained in or be members of the denomination.
Contact Wyatt Massey at email@example.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.