In North Dakota and Nebraska, Catholic Officials Work Against LGBTQ-Inclusive School Policies

Catholic officials in North Dakota and Nebraska have sought to stop LGBTQ-inclusive policies from being enacted at state-sponsored colleges and universities.

The University of North Dakota is proposing a gender identity policy that would mandate people be treated according to their gender rather than assigned sex when it comes to issues like pronouns and restrooms. It would also consider the intentional misgendering of a person as an act of discrimination. A public comment period closed in late October and the policy is now being considered by administrators.

During the comment period, the state’s Catholic bishops intervened in an effort to stop the policy’s approval. According to an Rob Port, an opinion writer for the Grand Forks Herald:

“‘If you had not wrote about it, we probably would not have learned about the proposed policy,’ Christopher Dodson, general counsel for the North Dakota Catholic Conference, told me. ‘A number of students and interested persons missed the official deadline for comments, which ended Friday.’ . . .

“‘We recognize that everyone should be treated with respect and that the university has a role in facilitating a respectful learning environment,’ Dodson writes. ‘However, this proposal goes beyond setting mere rules for administrative tasks. Indeed, it embraces and demands acceptance of a particular ideology about gender and language that infringes upon free speech and religious rights.'”

In a similar situation in a nearby state, policies on non-discrimination based on gender identity were approved for the Nebraska State College System earlier this month, accompanied by encouragement to use employee’s proper gender and preferred name. Preceding the policies’ passage, the Nebraska Catholic Conference joined with the Nebraska Family Alliance to oppose the measures. In their statement, the groups claimed, “Nebraskans have spoken loudly and clearly that they do not want ideologically driven gender identity policies imposed through our state education systems,” according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

Behind these two efforts by church leaders to stop pro-LGBTQ policies at secular institutions are religious liberty claims. But administrators have said the new policies are needed to comply with federal law, particularly in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bostock decision last year barring discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

The real issues surrounding religious liberty in both of these cases is the attempted undue interference by church authorities in secular affairs. In a pluralistic society, Catholics should certainly have a voice in the public square, but that involvement must be appropriate. Seeking to impose religious belief in state-sponsored education is not appropriate, nor are claims that protections for LGBTQ people impinge on others’ civil liberties.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 27, 2021

3 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Imagine for a moment that some secular agency suggested to the Church that Catholic educational facilities embrace non discriminatory stances regarding LGBT and transgender persons. I know. You can’t imagine it.

  2. Duane Sherry
    Duane Sherry says:

    Some days, I read the latest article on this site and feel hope that the Church is moving forward.

    Then, there are days like this… when the Church is an old pick up truck, stuck in the mud, hierarchy pressing the accelerator to the floor board, while it burns up the clutch.

  3. Fr. Scott Hill
    Fr. Scott Hill says:

    Every time I read about a US Bishop, or a Bishops conference speak of my Queer Community as an “ideology,” I grow angrier, and my heart hardens! These poorly informed, unenlightened, leaders of the American church have little to say regarding me or my Community. Humbly, let me enlighten these men that I am not an “ideology,” nor is my Queer Community (although I have no right to speak on behalf of the LGBTQAI+ Community). Each non-binary person must speak from their own authentic self. Personally, I reject (I struggle to find a stronger word) being identified as an “ideology.” I am made of flesh and blood; I have passions and I can be indifferent; I proudly claim my Queer orientation and wrestle with my non-binary self. I seek the God who did not have an “idea” about me but dreamed me into being. So, Bishops of the US learn about my non-binary humanity and the humanity of my Queer Community. Whether Queer or binary all of God’s creation has an intrinsic, authentic self that must be nurtured by church and its leaders. Amen!
    Fr. Scott Hill


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