Thursday, April 28, 2016
It's a longstanding piety -- at least since the Land O'Lakes statement -- among many in Catholic higher education specifically that Catholic universities should not be beholden to or bound by "external" authorities -- meaning, usually, ecclesiastical authorities. But, of course Catholic universities are tightly constrained by and seem more than willing to be constrained by a wide range of "external" authorities, including accrediting and licensing bodies, government conditions on funding and contracts, grantmaking bodies, and -- of course -- the NCAA.
As this USA Today story describes, things are moving rapidly toward a confrontation between religious institutions' rules and expectations regarding sexual morality, on the one hand, and the expanding understanding on the part of the NCAA (and corporate sponsors of athletics) of the non-discrimination norm. Here is just a bit:
The Education Department said in 2014 that transgender students are protected by Title IX. Since, dozens of religious schools — mostly smaller and lesser known, and none of the schools mentioned in this story — have asked for waivers that allow them to deny admittance to transgender students. And that has turned into a flashpoint for the NCAA.
Recently more than 80 LGBT organizations wrote a letter to the NCAA urging it to divest membership of religiously affiliated schools that ask for such waivers. “These requests,” the letter said, “are directly in conflict with the NCAA’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion for all people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
. . .
Schulz, chair of the NCAA board of governors, expressed willingness to take up the issue.
“I really liken it to some of the issues in the deep South for African American student-athletes going back to the 1960s,” he says. “We can look back now and say, ‘I can’t believe these teams weren’t playing each other because they had African-American basketball players.’ We can look back now and say, ‘That is unfathomable.’
“I’m not so sure that we wouldn’t look back in 20 or 30 years and say the same thing about some of our LGBT athletes. … We need to talk about it, but at the same time the NCAA has a powerful bully pulpit. And if we talk about inclusivity, I think it’s important that we take a stand on these social issues.”
In my view (as I've written here and here) it is usually a mistake to think that the non-discrimination norm, appropriately understood, requires governments (or, I am inclined to say, bodies like the NCAA) to punish, regulate, or even discourage religious institutions from adopting policies that reflect and promote their religious mission, even with those policies are not congruent with the rules that control the liberal state itself. The NCAA should allow, say, BYU or Baylor to be themselves. (I do not agree that policies reflecting traditional religious teachings on sexual morality are usefully compared to race discrimination.) But, I am not optimistic either that the NCAA et al. will stay their hand or that religious universities with major sports programs will resist. We'll see. . ..
UPDATE: . . . and we are seeing ("NCAA Will Not Host Final Four in Anti-LGBT States").