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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
April 21, 2006

Bill would exempt religious schools from anti-bias laws

Washington, D.C.--A U.S. House member from Utah wants to exempt religious-affiliated schools from non-discrimination laws, allowing them to bar LGBT prospective students from their campuses.

Rep. Chris Cannon, a Republican, introduced the measure to amend the Higher Education Act and it passed the House of Representatives on April 13. It is now before the Senate.

A quintet of colleges and universities--Notre Dame, Pepperdine, Samford, Baylor and Brigham Young--have been lobbying for the measure, claiming that they fear accreditation boards may someday require them to adhere to equal rights laws that run contrary to their religious dogma.

The anti-gay policies of colleges with religious affiliations have been highlighted by an Equality Ride organized by Soulforce, a group that seeks to �end spiritual violence� against LGBT people.

Thirty Soulforce Equality Riders were arrested at Brigham Young University on April 10 and 11 for rejecting the school�s edicts on where the protesters could be and in what activities they could participate.

The danger of the amendment to the Higher Education Act was highlighted in Kentucky, where a student was expelled from the University of the Cumberlands for being gay.

However, instead of being penalized for the action, the private Baptist school received over $10 million in state funding for a new pharmacy school.

The money was put in the state budget in closed-door bargaining sessions, which brought protests from some lawmakers and many citizens. They objected to the secrecy involved, public money being spent on a private university, and the fact that the school had just weeks before ejected Jason Johnson, a student who came out on his MySpace web page.

Johnson�s expulsion the first week of April made national news on both CNN and National Public Radio.

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