Biola develops transgender policy as Cal Baptist lawsuit appears
For the first time in history, to honor the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a transgender flag was raised in Harvey Milk Plaza in November. | Courtesy of torbakhopper [Creative Commons]
Biola University is working to create a policy regarding transgender individuals, as current university literature on sexuality does not reference those who identify themselves as the opposite gender.
While the actual release date of the new policy is undetermined, the aim is to have it ready by fall 2013 for the online student handbook, said Danny Paschall, dean of students.
As Biola updates their policies on sexuality to include gender identity issues, California Baptist University, a fellow member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, is currently being sued by a former transgender student for wrongful expulsion.
California Baptist University faces lawsuit
On Feb. 25, former CBU student Domaine Javier filed a lawsuit against the university for discriminatory expulsion, according to Paul Southwick of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Javier’s attorney.
“The reason for expulsion, as stated by Cal Baptist, was that my client committed fraud or concealment of identity because she checked ‘female’ for ‘gender’ on her application for admission,” Southwick said.
CBU and its lawyer, Theodore Stream of Gresham Savage in Riverside, could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit.
Although Javier identifies and lives as a female, she is biologically male. Prior to transferring to CBU in the fall of 2011, she appeared on an episode of MTV’s reality show “True Life” titled, “I’m Passing as Someone I’m Not.” CBU expelled Javier just before she began her first semester at the university after discovering her MTV appearance through a background check, according to The Press-Enterprise.
Regulations do not mention transgender individuals
The CBU Student Handbook requires that students respect the religious traditions, values and ethics of the university, although — unlike Biola — they do not require students to be professing Christians. A part of the university’s statement of faith, titled “The Christian and the Social Order,” further details the university’s values.
“In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography,” the University Baptist Faith and Message statement reads.
However, Southwick says that CBU’s statement does not address this particular issue.
“There is nothing in Cal Baptist’s policies addressing gender identity issues or transgender people, the only thing that is discussed is homosexuality,” Southwick said.
Since Javier views herself as a female and checked that as her gender on the application, Southwick insists that his client followed the rules and should be treated like any other student.
Prior case addresses Unruh Act in religious institutions
In 2009, precedent was set by Doe v. California Lutheran High School Association when California courts ruled that California Lutheran High School’s expulsion of two female students engaged in a homosexual relationship was not in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The ruling said that because the school was not a business enterprise, the Unruh Act did not apply. The Unruh Act forbids business establishments from discriminating against any person because of their actual or perceived sex, race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, medical condition, marital status or sexual orientation.
Despite this prior case, Southwick plans to argue that CBU acted in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act by expelling Javier for fraud.
Southwick asserted that the precedent set by the California Lutheran case does not apply since his client is not accused of being homosexual or engaging in homosexual conduct. Furthermore, it is not accurate to compare a high school with a college, he said.
“It’s a very different context than a university where adults are making their own decisions," Southwick said.
Biola admissions policies stricter than CBU
The Biola admissions department has dealt with misrepresentation on applications in the form of a student lying about alcohol use or submitting a fraudulent essay, but they have not encountered a student like Javier, according to Andre Stephens, senior director of undergraduate admissions. Stephens said that Biola’s stricter admissions policies, compared to CBU, might be a factor.
“We are a bit narrower on the students we accept, not just academically but spiritually, because we require that all students have a profession of Christian faith to attend,” Stephens said.
Although all 118 CCCU schools require faculty and staff to be professing Christians, Biola is one of 18 schools that requires students to be Christians as well, according to Stephens.